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 Post subject: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-13 07:23pm
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Route North-442.116

Without further ado, a short story (~8k words) set in a sci-fi universe I've been working on for some time now. It should (I hope) give you a nice introduction to the setting, so enjoy :) .


Part One: Athens Station, Wilderness Space, Galactic North, 13/02/4480

Commander Natalya Hart settled down into the form-fitting chair and permitted herself a smile as the last of the bulk freighters they'd escorted slowed to a stop relative to the comparatively tiny bulk of a station a 'mere' two kilometres in height. The trip from the edge of Podavi-patrolled space had been uneventful, with all of hyperspace in every direction filled with the massive quantities of traffic that travelled between the western powers and her own Terran Alliance. With the freighters safe under Athens Stations' defences, her squadron of destroyers could return to their original mission: their two-months-long patrol of Wilderness Space.

"Sir, Athens Station thanks us for the help, and informs us that the freighters' will be remaining here until a dedicated escort squadron has arrived for them," Lieutenant Tang, her sensors and comms officer, reported. "We're free to go."

"Very good. Is the squadron ready?" asked Hart, although she knew the answer already.

"Yes sir," replied Tang after the briefest of glances at the squadron report on his screen.

"Lieutenant Stevenson, set us on a course for Free Madrid and rotate when ready."

"Aye sir," replied the navigation officer a moment later. "Course set. Rotating... now."

The swarming environs of Athens Station vanished. So too did space itself - replaced by the swirling blue, white and purple lights of hyperspace. Held inside this strange realm by their hyperspace fields, the five destroyers under Hart's command adopted a delta formation, with her ship in the centre, engaged their plasma drives, and shot away. Leaning back in her chair, Hart took in the view. After nearly a century in the Alliance Navy, hyperspace still managed to look new and fresh every time she gazed into it. Ever-shifting patterns of light glittered just beyond the bubble of normal space that enclosed her ship, and she knew she could spend hours just watching the universe's most magnificent natural light show. Only the massed plasma drives of the great Liberation Fleet had looked more spectacular to Hart, and she knew how unlikely it was that such a fleet would ever be assembled again during her career in the Alliance Navy.

"Four point three hours until arrival at Free Madrid," Stevenson mentioned.

"Understood," Hart replied, then frowned as something flashed on the edge of her vision. "Cassandra?"

A hologram of what Hart always thought of a very old-fashioned female secretary or schoolteacher appeared besides her chair. "Commander, a message has just come in from Navy Command. Further updates to the mission at hand, I'm afraid."

"Hmm. Something happening on our patrol route?"

"Perhaps you should read it," suggested the hologram, injecting just the barest hint of reproof into its tone.

Hart got the message. "Lieutenant Stevenson, you have the conn," she said as she stood up and turned for one of the two doors that led off the bridge.

"Aye sir, I have the conn," Stevenson replied as he left his station and hurried up to Hart's.

+ + +

As she entered the office, Hart was reminded of the one on the Bellerophon, the massive Leviathan-type flagship of the Liberation Fleet. Admiral of the Fleet Sir Michael Wong's office had been at least four times the size of this one, but then space on a warship not even three hundred metres long space was at a premium, and Hart knew she was lucky the Navy's officers had insisted on the offices when the current warship template was being developed.

The hologram motioned to a datapad lying on the desk, and Hart picked it up. Worryingly, it didn't appear to be a long message. That meant only one thing to an Alliance Navy commander: a distinct lack of intelligence on the matter.

To: Commander Natalya Hart (CO, T-C2142-DD)
From: Navy Command
Subject: Recent changes in political structure of Route North-442.116

Please be advised that at 14:42 Alliance Capital Time, rebel factions within the Solar Republic of Lambert's Star successfully struck at the main government district in Landing with RKVs. Current reports indicate that most of the parliament has been wiped along, along with a substantial portion of the civil service and most of the majro foreign embassies - including our own. Fighting has been reported on most inhabited planets within the system. The Foreign Office is currently reviewing the situation and has not yet adopted a policy with regard to the situation in the system. As such, your orders are not to intervene in the political or military situation in the system.

Click here for attached map & previous data on the Solar Republic of Lambert's Star.

Click here for Alliance Navy authentication references.

Message ends.


Hart read the message once more and dropped the datapad back on her desk. Relativistic kill vehicles... wonder how they got one of them through, she thought to herself. "Lambert's Star... damn. Thirty-four hours away." She closed her eyes and drew a hand through short blond hair, thinking furiously about what the news would mean to her squadron. At least by the time they got to the system Navy Command should have some better information on the situation.

"I assume you'll want to inform the squadron yourself at Free Madrid," stated the hologram, looking as businesslike as ever.

"Yes." Hart paused, then looked over at the hologram. "Okay Cassandra, what do you think?"

"That very much depends on what we find there," replied the hologram. "The information at hand is much too sparse to model accurately. Based on previous information however, it is likely that the rebel factions in question are independence movements from the outer planets. These groups have little love for the Alliance due to our policy of not intervening in their internal affairs, and have considerable popular support, but little support in the armed forces or political establishment. This could be an issue if they decide to resort to piratical tactics for their war effort, as we will be obligated to engage them. Should they retreat into the system under the protection of friendly planetary defences, we will be forced to call for capital ship support."

"I know - I saw the new orbital forts they were building last time we were there. Still, that depends entirely on whether or not they decide to go down that road. Do you think they will?"

"It's unlikely," admitted the hologram. "More likely, both sides will be too eager to win Alliance support to employ such tactics, which will allow us to remain neutral in their civil war, and continue on our patrol route. Unless of course we get orders to the contrary from Navy Command." The tone of the hologram's voice told Hart all she needed to know about the likelihood of that happening. If Navy Command wanted the Alliance to involve itself in an nth-rate civil war it wouldn't both risking a squadron of sub-capital ships: it'd send in the biggest capital or super-capital behemoth it had handy, and that would be the end of that.

Hart took a breath and nodded. Hopefully there'd be some more useful information soon. "Right then. I'll go tell the squadron."



Clear ether!

Teleros, of Quintessence

Route North-442.116; Altacar Empire, SDNW 4 Nation; Lensman Tech Analysis

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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-13 10:21pm
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Nice hook to draw us in. Keep it coming.



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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-14 08:30am
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Part Two: Kingdom of Free Madrid, Wilderness Space, Galactic North, 13/02/4480

"Commander Hart, how good to see you again." Admiral Alfredo Caldera smiled with genuine warmth on the main viewing screen as Hart's squadron entered the inner sensor envelope of the Free Madrid system, some seven parsecs beyond the system itself. "I trust that the Harpies have had good hunting?" he added, referring to the unofficial name of Hart's squadron.

"Very good, thankyou Admiral." Hart smiled warmly back. "And yes: dozen converted freighters and three dedicated destroyer-types. I'll tell you about the cruiser in person."

"A cruiser?" Caldera couldn't keep the surprise out of his voice. "Now that you must tell me about - I insist!"

"Three point zero two minutes until arrival," interrupted Stevenson.

"Then I'll see you in thirty," added Caldera. "Free Madrid out."

As the image of the deeply tanned admiral vanished, Hart mentally ran over her list for Free Madrid. Established in 2912 - rather late as far as independent human colonies went - Free Madrid had initially been one of those ideologically-driven colonies determined to avoid being reduced to subservience to the Terran Alliance like so many others. Perhaps inevitably, things hadn't turned out that way, but the Free Spanish, as they confusingly called themselves, had eventually come to accept that the benefits of good relations and trade with the Alliance outweighed the costs. Alliance Navy patrols along 'Route North-442.116' was just one of those benefits: a monthly visit by ships of the galaxy's largest and most advanced navy had helped drive most of the pirates from Free Madrid's neighbourhood - and deterred other local powers from engaging in any wars of conquest. The Harpies would spend a day in the system, showing the flag and renewing old friendships, before moving on to Lambert's Star. Despite the prospect of exercises against what was actually a very good local navy, Free Madrid was looking distinctly like the quiet point of their patrol.

The minutes ticked by, until the five-ship squadron arrived, several lightseconds from the Free Madrid capital world. Or rather, from the co-ordinates in hyperspace that corresponded to the capital world, for without precise maps, computers and scanners, hyperspace was essentially the same wherever you were in it. One moment, the ships were surrounded by the twisting lights of hyperspace and the various civilian ships travelling to and from the tiny one-system kingdom, the next they had rotated out of that alien realm and back into ordinary space. Ahead blazed a sun that could have been Sol's twin sister, whilst Hart could just make out a faint blue tinge to what looked otherwise like a distant star - their destination.

"We've arrived, Commander. Current position is six point zero lightseconds from number three, decreasing at a rate of one one two point zero K's," reported Stevenson.

"Lieutenant Stevenson, plasma drives until the turnover point, then gravitics on the way in."

"Aye sir. Squadron acknowledges orders. Permission to go to manual?" he asked, twisting in his chair to look back and up at his commander.

Hart made a show of rolling her eyes. Everyone in the squadron knew of Stevenson's love of manual flight - but Hart had to admit he was one of the best she'd seen, especially for a starship that massed over a two point six million tonnes. "Very well then Lieutenant," she said at last, before adding: "Try not to break anything."

"Like hell - sir." Stevenson retorted, as his screen switched to display everything he'd need to control the destroyer.

Deep inside massive, cylindrical engines, arcane devices again came to life, converting raw energy into matter before accelerating the newly-formed particles out at nearly lightspeed. Even with modern engineering it was a horrendously wasteful means of propulsion, possible only to civilisations that could tap the literally unlimited energies of hyperspace and which were determined to do away with the logistics that fuel or reaction mass would have required. Even using the engines as photon drives was more efficient, but past disasters had shown the danger of using what were effectively giant lasers anywhere near an inhabited planet. The current plasma drive technology by contrast produced equally large particle beams - but unlike with photons, charged particles tended to disperse much more rapidly, making them much safer by comparison. Still, the danger to inhabited worlds and other starships was very real - hence why, a little short of the halfway point between the five Alliance destroyers and the Free Madrid world, Stevenson shut off the plasma drives and switched to the gravitic drive. Although less powerful and requiring a suitably massive celestial body nearby, gravitic drives were far safer nearer planets: like a tractor or pressor beam, they used the massive bulk of the planet itself as reaction mass.

Two minutes after having appeared within the Free Madrid system, Hart's five destroyers had docked with the north polar orbital fort.

+ + +

"So my dear," Caldera began, as he offered her the glass of what looked like whiskey, "what can you tell an old man about the wonders of this galaxy?"

Hart settled down and sipped, then looked up in surprise. "Tayan whiskey? You're doing well for yourself," she added, narrowing her eyes slyly. "Retirement present, 'old man'?"

"Ha! No doubt the King would like me to by now," Caldera admitted, "but I'm not going anywhere whilst that idiot Fernandez is still gunning for my job. No, we found a dozen crates of this stuff being smuggled about, oh, two weeks ago, and..." he shrugged. "You've been holding out on me, Commander. I never knew the Alliance had such treasures. Now, answer my question."

"All right." Settling down into the armchair, Hart closed here eyes and thought back. "The route's been quiet last time, except around the cluster," she began, referring to the small cluster of young stars that lay halfway along her patrol route and some thousand parsecs from Free Madrid. Caldera would know which one she was referring to. "We got those three destroyer-types there."

"How'd you manage that then? I thought the pirates around there were always too cautious to come out."

Hart nodded. "They are, but I had the Aello play the damaged freighter and the other ships except mine act as the rest of a priority convoy. The Strophades was their lone escort. From Free Madrid, as I recall. It was touch-and-go whether or not we'd fooled their scanners for a while though."

Caldera nodded in understanding. Even with the best in subspace technology, it was difficult to fool another starship's scanners. Had the pirates had more modern or larger scanners they would likely have seen through Hart's trick. "So they rushed in to grab your ships before any other escorts nearby could respond, and bit off more than they could chew. I trust the Royal Space Navy's Strophades performed well."

"She certainly did," Hart agreed, grinning. "It looks like whichever band is operating out of the cluster is using old Conglomerate ships. You might want to make sure that gets out by the way, if you don't know already. Anyway, what else... the Namrin are squabbling amongst themselves again, Koros refugees are trying to escape from the war at Voon'cha, and a Ban caravan was mistaken for smugglers by Tanner's Star, so the Ban are calling for holy war, although they may be at it by now."

"The usual then," Caldera said once it was clear Hart had stopped, and the Alliance Navy officer nodded. "You've also heard about the situation at Lambert's Star I assume?"

"Only that there was fighting there after a relativistic strike on the capital. I'm still wondering how they managed to do that."

"So are we, but someone there instituted a total lockdown on the system. Nobody's allowed in or out, comms are jammed, and as they're not a part of the League..." Caldera shrugged. "I'm afraid we don't know much more than you do. We did manage to get some news out though, from a high speed freighter that was leaving the system when the fighting broke out. Apparently the groups in the outer planets there are fighting amongst themselves as well, and a lot of damage has been done to the orbital shipyards and forts as well."

"So they're even more vulnerable to the usual opportunistic raiders... and it wasn't a co-ordinated strike either. Interesting."

+ + +

The rest of Hart's day in the star system passed the way most such trips did, with Free Madrid's Royal Space Navy engaging in exercises with the Alliance destroyers, and Hart's customary visit to the Terran Alliance embassy in the capital, Corombo. Closer to its sun than Terra was to Sol, Free Madrid III, or Valencia, was considerably hotter for most of the year, and Hart was grateful for the official aircar that Admiral Caldera always made available for her. She knew her Navy-modded body could handle temperatures well in excess of the forty-five degrees in the capital without trouble, but the aircar allowed her to travel quickly and in comfort without rubbing in the fact that she was better suited to the environment than the locals were.

The sound of air rushing past the aircar returned suddenly as the automated vehicle slowed and exited the vacuum-tunnel that let it achieve hypersonic speeds in the middle of a city, and slowed to a stop just outside the gates of a walled compound: the Alliance embassy. "Morning Commander. Ambassador Fisher's expecting you," said the Alliance Guard lance-corporal on duty outside the gates as Hart approached.

"Thanks Harry. Anything interesting happening?"

"Nothing much Nat," the lance-corporal admitted, his eyes never leaving the unending stream of vehicles and pedestrians that flowed past the compound. "Busy day though."

"I can see," replied Hart, looking past the gates and at the queue extending outside the main building. "Trade permits again?"

"Yeah, think so. Plus the locals just took in another bunch of those poor Koros buggers a day ago, and we've got the lion's share. Anyway you'd best be getting in; I'll see you on the way out."

"Cya then." Smiling, Hart gave the guard a final nod and strode quickly through the compound.

Almost immediately, several of the Koros saw her navy blue uniform and hurried over, hooting and whistling away in their own language, ignoring the embassy holograms and their attempts to hand out aid packages. A few made an attempt to speak English, but even Hart struggled to understand their attempts. Most of them seemed to be asking for asylum, if Hart understood them correctly. Holding up her hands to ward off the diminutive centaurs and repeating apologies that she could not help them, she hurried through the crowd and slipped past a pair of Borltan merchants at the doors, pretending not to notice the flashes of angry orange rippling across their fur as her uniform got her past the queue.

The interior was considerably cooler than outside, and Hart glanced briefly about the white marble interior. A group of short, heavily-built Dren were engaged in an animated conversation with some of the staff over what sounded like problems with their visas, but other than that the reception radiated a sense of hushed order. Satisfied that Fisher wasn't waiting for her down here, Hart turned and headed for the lift to the sixth floor and his office.

+ + +

"Come in and have a seat, Natalya. The trip from Liberty was good I take it?" Ambassador Fisher waved languidly towards a chair and dismissed the holoscreen in front of him with a thought. Like most humans in the Alliance, Alan Fisher was - or rather, appeared to be - no more than about thirty, although Hart noticed that he'd shaved off the fuzz of hair he'd been sporting during her last visit. At almost nine hundred years old though, he was probably the oldest human living in the entire system, and he'd spent most of that time working in the Foreign Office in one system or another, and in his dull grey suit and tie, could have come from almost any period in the last two and a half thousand years or so.

"Thanks Alan. We came here from Athens though." At his querying look, Hart continued. "Oh, nothing much. Just decided to shake up our usual routine and escort a couple of dozen bulk freighters from the Podavi Protectorate to the station, before they picked up their proper escort. Does the bad guys good to keep guessing as to quite when we'll turn up around here. Didn't meet any though," she added.

"Ah well. Anyway, it's good to see you again, although I see you've still not taken my advice."

"Says the man whose head is so bald you could reflect comms lasers off it," Hart responded. "You may like to see me with three feet of hair, but I have no intention of having to deal with that every morning."

"So get your ship to deal with it then." Fisher grinned openly.

"You don't play fair."

"Of course not, that's why I'm an ambassador and you're just a Navy officer." Hart had to chuckle at that, and Fisher leant back as she did so. "Ah well. If we had time later on I'd take you out to that nice Garamorian restaurant I told you about last time and we can swap stories there. However... you've heard about Lambert's Star?"

Hart nodded. "Only that there's a civil war and that I'm not to get my ships involved. Admiral Caldera said that someone there has locked down the system entirely, and that the independence movements were fighting one another."

"Pretty much, although it's not a total lockdown. I'm told that DI One still has a network in place there," began Fisher, referring to the Department of Intelligence's foreign espionage section. "I'm not privy to much of what they know, but they did discover that my opposite number, Tom Schwarzschild, survived."

"He did? Well, we all know how hard it is to kill a Marine, even an ex-Marine. He can't have been at the embassy though."

"No, apparently he'd been given a tour of some new project or something... whatever," Fisher waved a hand dismissively. "Point is, he survived, but one of the local groups now has him prisoner." He opened a draw and fished out a datapad. "Here's your official orders - Navy Command wants him rescued if possible, but doesn't want you to interfere with their little war if you can avoid it."

Hart skimmed through the message. As she'd hoped, this one was considerably more informative, although if the reports on the fighting were any indication it'd be out of date by the time she arrived in-system. "Hmm... without interfering in things? I take it the Foreign Office is still deciding what to do then."

"Pretty much," Fisher responded. "I think you'd actually need to lose a star nation out here for Terra to notice sometimes. My sources back home say we'll probably just send some ships, wave a big stick around and maybe hit a few of the factions with it until the rest get the message."

"Nothing flashy, huh," commented Hart, noticing Fisher's sour tone at the thought of more Alliance 'gunboat diplomacy'.

"Or clever," he added. "Not like whoever comes up with these ideas is the one who has to spend the next few decades trying to convince the survivors that we're nice guys really." Fisher shook himself, and sat up a little straighter. "Still, you mustn't let me get you depressed as well. We've still got a few minutes left before my next appointment, so fill me in on what's been happening in your neck of space."

+ + +

"Commander on deck."

"I have the conn." Hart nodded to Stevenson as he vacated her chair, and settled down into it. "Lieutenant Tang, inform the squadron that due to the situation at Lambert's Star we will be departing immediately, then apologise to Admiral Caldera's office for the disruption to his exercises. Lieutenant Stevenson, plot our course and get us to Lambert's Star. Cassandra, call up the other ships: Navy Command's just handed us one of those delicate situations we all so love."

"ETA Lambert's Star, six point two hours," announced Stevenson, as the bridge crew went into action.

A few moments later, the five Alliance destroyers rotated into hyperspace, but this time Hart was concentrating not on the view, but instead the four faces hovering on holoscreens around her chair.



Clear ether!

Teleros, of Quintessence

Route North-442.116; Altacar Empire, SDNW 4 Nation; Lensman Tech Analysis

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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-14 08:15pm
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Part Three: Lambert's Star, Wilderness Space, Galactic North, 13/02/4480

"Sir, we're detecting five Alliance Navy destroyers approaching. Distance one zero two parsecs, ETA forty-eight minutes."

Captain Marcus Jonathan, lately of the Solar Republic Navy, now of the Outer Lambert Defence Force, strode over to the display. "Must be the Harpies. Crap. Inform Nav-... Inform CentCom and ask for instructions."

"Aye sir."

"Right... now what assets do we have in range?" Jonathan asked, mostly to himself, as he skimmed over the display of the outer system. The strike against the capital had surprised the outer planets as much as the inner worlds, but Jonathan and his co-conspirators had known that their only chance - both to survive and free their homeworlds - had been to take advantage of the confusion, and so his destroyer, the Indomitable, had been one of the first to declare itself for the outer planets. But as the situation deteriorated, so it had become apparent that the danger was from the other outer planets as much as it was from the inner worlds. What had started as a civil war between two sides had degenerated into one with something like half a dozen factions now, although the last he'd heard about the sixth planet, Frederick, was that its revolutionary government was close to surrendering to that of the seventh, Graham. Regardless of the outcome there however, it was his job to monitor hyperspace around the star system, primarily to help keep the lockdown in place. Which meant dealing with five warships from the galaxy's brash young superpower was going to be tricky indeed.

"The Magnificent reports that its hyperdrive is repaired sir; Captain Nemec can reinforce us if necessary."

"That is good news," Jonathan agreed. The Magnificent was one of the few cruisers that had both survived the kinetic strike and gone over to the rebel worlds, but sabotage by its old artificial intelligence had crippled its hyperdrive before it could be of any use. "All right. They must know we can see them, so open a comms channel and let's see what they're up to."

+ + +

"Commander, I have the Outer Lambert Defence Force Ship Indomitable on the line. Its captain is, or appears to be, Marcus Jonathan still."

"Put him on then." A young man's face popped into existence in front of Hart on a holoscreen. "Captain Jonathan, good day. I've heard about the situation at Lambert's Star: I hope it's sorted out soon."

"Thankyou, Commander Hart. Given the situation, I've been ordered by my superiors to, ah, request that all foreign starships avoid Lambert's Star until the fighting has abated."

Well, you're not nervous much, Hart thought as she studied the captain's face. Can't blame you though, she added to herself. "I understand captain, but my orders are to continue upon my patrol route, which includes Lambert's Star. I should-"

"One moment," interrupted Jonathan, turning away for a few seconds. "I'm sorry Commander, but Central Command demands that your squadron also stay clear of the system. You are not to enter it, either in normal space or realspace."

Hart shook her head. "As I was saying, I should also add that I've been ordered to attempt a rescue of our ambassador to the Solar Republic, Tom Schwarzschild, whom I understand is being held on Catherine. Given the fact that the Terran Alliance has yet to recognise any other government in Lambert's Star other than the Solar Republic, I cannot accede to your demands. And," she added, before Jonathan could reply, "I might remind all factions in Lambert's Star that the Terran Alliance takes a very dim view of attacks upon its warships. Sorry captain. Hart out."

"Think it's going to get hot sir?" asked Tang, looking up from his console.

"Doubt it. They're probably just trying to set a little precedent. Acting weak now will just give them an excuse to try the same on us whenever we finally get around to sorting out this god-awful mess. Lieutenant Stevenson? Take us in, as close to Catherine's gravity well as you can. Cassandra, tell Pike to get his boys suited up: I rather doubt we're going to be able to bomb Schwarzschild out of captivity."

+ + +

High above Lambert's Star III, or Catherine as it had been named, and just beyond the point where its gravitational pull diminished to a mere tenth of what it was on its surface, the five destroyers of T-C2142-DD, the Harpies, appeared. Any closer would have meant risking destruction in the transition from hyperspace to normal space - precisely what Hart's squadron had forced a pirate cruiser to do several weeks earlier. Fortunately the nature of the transition prevented it being used as a weapon: ships destroyed by rotating in a high gravitational field never truly left hyperspace, a fact that had probably saved more lives than any other aspect of hyperspace. Still, to approach so close was a sure sign of either recklessness or urgency, and Hart was counting on that - plus the Alliance's reputation as the bull in the proverbial china shop - to get the mission completed as quickly as possible. The sooner they were out of Lambert's Star the better.

"Commander, Orbital Control is demanding to know what we're doing."

"Put them on." A new holoscreen appeared in front of Hart's chair, but she never gave the woman on it a chance. "This is Commander Natalya Hart of the Alliance Navy. We're here under orders to find and rescue Ambassador Tom Schwarzschild, whom we have strong reason to believe is being held captive on the planet below. You will patch me through to whoever is responsible for your own efforts to recover our ambassador immediately."

To her credit, the nameless woman on the holoscreen started to reply, but she disappeared before anything could be said as a new, helmeted face replaced hers. "Major Jesus Romanov here, you've got some balls coming here like that with a hundred times your firepower aimed at your ships. You're Commander Hart, right?"

"Yes. Y-"

"Good." Romanov's face was hidden under the reflective visor and breathing filter of his helmet, but nobody hearing his gruff voice and abrupt manner could have doubted that he was pissed off no end at Hart. "We're pretty certain that we've tracked down the group holding your ambassador hostage," he continued, as a small map appeared besides his face, "but they're too well dug in for us to take them out safely. What are your assets?"

"One hundred and five HECS-armoured crewmen, plus orbital support."

"We won't need the big guns. Get your Bluejackets down here then. Who's leading them?"

"Lieutenant Pike."

"Right. Anything else, Commander? Major Romanov out."

+ + +

"Alright boys and girls, we've got the go-ahead. DP is here, right next to their field command post here. Cassandra, any intel for us?"

"I've scanned the target location as best I can given the jamming the government has in place to stop the outer planets gathering intel. Gravity is one point one Gs, so nothing to worry about. Based on the data so far, the mission should be successful. You'll all receive an infodump en route," replied the hologram, appearing suddenly before the group of power-armoured crewmen. There was a hiss as the airlock behind the hologram opened, revealing the planet far below. "You may jump when ready."

"After me by squads. Move out!" Confident the other Bluejackets would be right behind him, Lieutenant Pike jumped out of the airlock and shot towards the planet, tiny thrusters built on the same principles as the starship's massive engines propelling him down. Like the other Bluejackets - the twenty percent of so of a starship's crew trained to operate as an impromptu infantry force when required - Pike was enclosed completely in a Hostile Environment Combat Suit, the heaviest personal armour the Alliance had for its infantry. There were larger suits, such as Sheridan mechs, but they were designed to engage enemy armour, not infantry - and that was what the Bluejackets had orbiting starships for.

Heat sensors remained steady as Pike entered the atmosphere, the meteorite shields protecting the alloy of the suit from the heat of reentry. The ground hurtled towards him, until he twisted in midair, letting the plasma jets that had carried him planetside so quickly check his descent. A second later, and the other Bluejackets began landing around him, leaving blackened marks on the ground where their plasma jets had licked the surface, and the occasional crack where they landed a bit too heavily.

True to its word, the ship had dumped what information it had on the rebels directly into his brain during the descent. "All squads, surround the target. Squads from Celaeno to get underneath them. Move out." Pike hurried on to where he knew Major Romanov was.

"Major Romanov?"

"You're Lieutenant Pike?"

"Yes." Pike glanced briefly over Romanov's armour, but as Cassandra had said, it didn't look like it would stand up much to the firepower anyone in a HECS could bring to bear. "They're in that building?" he asked, indicating a lone building just a few hundred yards away, and the only one in the area that hadn't been damaged by the weapons both sides had been using.

"Yeah. Shields rigged to hold off our weapons, but they haven't been able to cover any openings with them, hence why the windows are all down. It's quiet now, but they've got at least one heavy cannon in there. We've had to extend the shields from our APCs to cover us. How you planning on getting in?"

"Nothing special. Surround it and move in." Anticipating his next actions, his suit brought up a holographic plan of the building. "Our scans show it's just a fifty kiloton shield, which should be easy enough to overcome if we can hit it at once. Schwarzschild is being held right inside, here, and the guys in charge of this setup are in the room besides his."

"You think you can capture them as well?" asked the Lambert major.

"Maybe. We'll try and draw them to the doors, then hit them at this wall here. Three squads should do it: the rest will keep their heads down and the perimeter secure. Looks like a clear run from there to where they're keeping Schwarschild."

"It'll be well covered," Romanov countered, looking at the schematic dubiously. An open corridor twenty yards long with a hostage to be freed at the other end was not something he'd have wanted to assault. On the other hand...

Pike shrugged. "Yes but it's also the shortest route inside, and this situation needs speed and surprise. They must know we know that they'd cover that corridor well, but they don't know what it means to be facing Alliance Bluejackets."



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Teleros, of Quintessence

Route North-442.116; Altacar Empire, SDNW 4 Nation; Lensman Tech Analysis

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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-15 10:00am
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Part Four: Lambert's Star, Wilderness Space, Galactic North, 13/02/4480

Jeremiah Tabai looked over at the Alliance ambassador. The man had, to his credit, surrendered without a fight when confronted by the rebels at the San Domingo factory he'd been touring, but since then had said nothing. Even when that psycho Peter had shoved a couple of hundred volts around his body, the man hadn't uttered a sound. Truth be told, it was scary.

"Hey, I heard there are Alliance ships in orbit. Someone just dropped about a hundred guys down near the command post."

Tabai recognised Peter's voice. There was something almost eager in his voice, as if he fully wanted a fight against the Alliance, but if they were down here already they surely had the firepower to break into the building, which meant this was going to get very ugly very quickly. He noticed Schwarzschild smiling faintly. "You know something about this?" snapped Tabai.

Schwarzschild looked up at Tabai. His eyes had the sort of intense look Tabai had rarely seen on anyone - only Peter, it seemed, had eyes like them, but whereas Peter's seemed full of life, Schwarzschild's seemed blank, even dead. After a few seconds, Tabai turned away, uncomfortable.

"Jer, they're making a push, looks like both doors. Definitely Alliance outside. Get back to your post!"

Tabai gave Schwarzschild's manacles one last look, then made for the door. With his limbs manacled securely to the wall, there was no way the ambassador was going anywhere. "Coming!" he yelled, then skidded to a halt at the sound of cracking behind him and the terrific explosion that had just rocked the building.

+ + +

"Go!"

As one, a hundred and five HECS-armoured Bluejackets sprinted towards the building. Those rebels on sentry duty already opened fire, but they soon discovered that these were not men like them. A Lambert's Star professional sprinter, with all the genetic modifications he or she had, might be able to cover a hundred metres in perhaps four seconds. These soldiers were covering that in just one, and were jinking to avoid the defenders' fire as they did so. Computer-controlled pulse cannons mounted on the HECS suits opened fire as one, and within a tenth of a second a kiloton of heat leaked through the pulse shielding as the sparkling green beams struck the same point. In an instant there was a new entrance halfway up one wall, and right on cue the nearest Bluejackets leapt up and into the still-smoking hole.

As fast as they were, they were not fast enough, and the first Bluejacket into the breach was killed almost immediately as the heavy pulse cannon Romanov had warned them of opened fire, punching through his personal shield and vaporising his shoulder before swinging through the rest of his body, literally blowing him apart. But the brief second it took to shred the first Bluejacket was enough: the second landed in the corridor and, before the defenders' cannon could swing around, had reached it. There was a tremendous crash as the power-armoured Bluejacket tore the heavy cannon free from its tripod, followed by a brief scream as it came down on the nearest rebel's skull in spite of the man's personal shield.

+ + +

Tabai took an involuntary step back as he heard the screams from the room just beyond, then turned to Schwarzschild. He knew what to do if all else failed. He-

Whatever thoughts were going through Jeremiah Tabai's mind ended there and then as Schwarzschild's fist shattered his right temple and sent his corpse slamming into the far side of the room, moments before the black-armoured bulk of the second Bluejacket smashed through the doorframe.

+ + +

"Ambassador's safe, in battle trance."

The message, spoken in Rapid, took just a fraction of a second to hear - too short for a normal human to have understood, but long enough for a Navy-modded human like Pike. "Secure and out."

"Yes sir."

"Leaders dead, them," reported another Bluejacket a few seconds later.

"Aye. Out," ordered Pike. As quickly as they had come - or nearly, given the need for several of the Bluejackets to fight their way clear, and pick up the remains of their only casualty - the Alliance soldiers exited the now thoroughly ruined building, leaving Romanov's men to take over. As much as most of the Bluejackets would have been happy to clean out the building, it was important that they not be seen to be taking sides in the conflict.

Major Romanov was waiting just outside. "The ambassador safe?"

Pike nodded, switching back to English. "Ringleaders managed to suicide though."

"Damn. Well, I suppose I owe your men thanks. Saved me a lot of casualties." Unlike his earlier manner, there was a tone of definite respect in the major's voice now. Romanov jerked a head towards one of the other Bluejackets, carrying out most of the upper torso of the dead Bluejacket. "We saw the shot that got him."

Pike looked over briefly. "Oh, Tim? Yeah. Cassandra will have a download though. He'll be back up again in a week, tops. Shame about the suit though."

+ + +

"Ambassador, please have a seat. How's the hand?"

"It'll be fine in a day or two, thanks." Schwarzschild, still in his tattered grey suit, sank happily into the chair opposite Hart's desk. "A stint in the Marines has its advantages."

"Mmm," agreed Hart. "So what, they just... handcuffed you and thought that would do it?"

"Well, it was to a girder," protested Schwarzschild. "But yes, essentially. So I crushed one hand, pulled it out, and brained the bastard who'd been guarding me up until then."

"Amateurs," snorted Hart. Like everyone else who either was or had ever been in the Terran Alliance's armed forces, Schwarzschild had been gene-modded to be able to enter what most called a battle trance - a state of mind that effectively shut down those parts of the brain not required for combat - from an individual's personality and emotions to their capacity to feel pain. Critics derided it as turning soldiers into lobotomised robots, but in combination with the all-volunteer nature of the Alliance's armed forces, it had proven useful enough that the War Office was unlikely ever to stop doing it, whatever one thought of the ethics of it. Like most former servicemen, Schwarzschild had kept his mods after leaving, and had been able to put them to good use today.

"Yes," agreed Schwarzschild after a moment. "But that's not why I came to see you so quickly. Tell me Nat, how much of this situation strikes you as odd."

"Odd? All of it, frankly," admitted Hart. "Getting an RKV past FTL sensors was impossible before the Sputnik got into orbit, and it hasn't changed since. And then, the planets that should be taking advantage of this turn on each other - but only after preventing anyone or any message entering or leaving the system."

"Exactly. On the other hand, we both know who would benefit most from stirring up this kind of trouble so close to some of our major trade routes, don't we."

Hart frowned. "The Hyrpol? They hate us, yes, but this would be a hell of a departure from their usual stunts." She paused. "You mean the Core Empire then."

"Indeed I do," confirmed the ambassador. "After the DI One staff here stopped an attempt by their ambassador here to do it with the traditional cloak-and-daggers approach, they turned to this. And encouraging the outer planets to fight one another just makes it more likely-"

"That one of them will call for their friends in the Core Empire to assist them," finished Hart. "Hmm. We're not out of the woods yet: the locals are blocking our communications too, and you can bet that whoever's running the show around here knows that we got you out safely."



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Teleros, of Quintessence

Route North-442.116; Altacar Empire, SDNW 4 Nation; Lensman Tech Analysis

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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-15 10:29pm
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I'm liking this more and more :)



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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-16 07:02am
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Part Five: Lambert's Star, Wilderness Space, Galactic North, 13/02/4480

"I don't like it." Ambassador Domr Hett shifted uneasily in his seat.

"You don't have to like it, but you also don't have a choice," countered Master-Commodore Viltar Noss. "The Alliance has clearly managed to extract their ambassador safely, and it would be foolish beyond belief to assume that he hasn't told them what we were planning. Which means that unless we hit their ships now, before they can get out of the system and get a message off, we're going to have a couple of sector fleets parked here within a local day at most."

Hett sat there, worrying silently. It had been both technically challenging - and very expensive - to hide a squadron of the Core Navy's capital ships deep inside the gas giant, Graham, especially from Alliance Navy sensors. To reveal them now would mean they had no more gold in the mine - or to use the human phrase, no more aces up their sleeve. On the other hand, what use was a mine if it wasn't eventually mined out?

"Ambassador?"

"All right! And may the Imperial Throne have mercy on us if we fail."

Noss guffawed. "Oh, they're good, those Alliance Navy types. But there's only five destroyers - against twelve cruisers, five battleships, and a dreadnought equipped with a hyperwall generator, just in case the natives here decide to help the Alliance. Trust me when I say they are more likely to escape from the Great Maw than they are from my ships."

+ + +

"The Core Empire? That's... well not impossible obviously, but still..."

Hart nodded soberly at Jonathan's face on the holoscreen. "We reckon they must have their own hyperwall generator if they're going to do this without relying entirely on you guys, and that means one of their dreadnought-type ships at the very least, and I don't have a hope against one of those."

"No I understand. You're asking a lot of me, Commander. Even if you get out, that will still leave us here, with a fleet vastly more powerful than anything we have, and undoubtedly hostile to us."

"I know. Still, the ship reckons they won't hit you - much, anyway - because it will end any chance they have of a treaty to set up a base here. And they daren't simply claim the system, because that'd set everyone from here to Andromeda against them. They should give up, and any damage they do you can be sure the Alliance will deal with once reinforcements arrive."

Jonathan sighed, but he knew Hart was right. Whatever safety Lambert's Star got from being made a Core Navy base would be gone once the Alliance Navy retaliated - and there was no chance that that wouldn't happen. Perhaps, if they were lucky, there might be one or two planets or moons that still had people living on them once the Alliance Navy's siege ships were done levelling the Core Navy's installations. The Core Empire was quite obviously prepared to sacrifice Lambert's Star in exchange for a brief advantage in its unending war of attrition with the Terran Alliance, but that did not mean they would court a public relations disaster by needlessly butchering the inhabitants as revenge for aiding the Alliance.

"Very well," he said at last. "I'll contact CentCom: you're lucky we control the hyperwall generator around here. If CentCom doesn't agree to help though... I don't know frankly."

"Thanks. Really," Hart replied, sincerely.

"Don't thank me just yet. You're not out of range of our generator yet. Illustrious out."

+ + +

"Master-Commodore! The destroyers have rotated out!"

"Is the hyperwall generator functioning?"

"No my lord, the government on David is refusing to activate it. We've just activated our own, but they still managed to coast half the distance hyperspace. They'll escape its radius in... four point nine neffa, assuming we chase them immediately."

"Then do so, and make sure we're blocking their transmissions, just in case anyone else gets any ideas." Noss bit back on his anger, knowing it wasn't his subordinate who was at fault, but the humans here. "And get the people on number seven to intercept them." As the bridge crew hurried about their tasks and the mighty Emperor 6 class dreadnought Glory of the Throne forced its way out of the dense atmosphere of the gas giant it had been hidden in, Noss thought back to what Hett had said. He might still be able to save his career, but if this got any worse there'd be demotions for sure. Not even having a Lord Elector as a cousin would save him from that.

"Sir, our allies are refusing to engage the Alliance ships. One of the local cruisers is covering them."

+ + +

Racing forwards at a fraction under the speed of light, the Harpies crept towards the edge of the Core Empire's hyperwall, and Hart let out the breath she'd been unconsciously holding as Stevenson rotated the Strophades into hyperspace the moment it was possible to.

"Message transmitted," announced Tang. "Captain Nemec of the Majestic wishes us godspeed."

"Eight point eight hours until arrival at Athens Station," reported the navigator, and Hart could feel the tension draining away from her crew. They'd made it.

+ + +

Master-Commodore Noss glared at the five icons as they vanished from the screen. He could go rotate to hyperspace and follow, but whilst his cruisers could match the destroyers' speed, they couldn't force them out of hyperspace without the hyperwall generator his much slower dreadnought carried. Gazing over the display, his eyes eventually came to rest on an icon hovering over the fourth planet, David. A shipyard. "Clean out that low grade shit," he growled. "I don't want to leave them with so much as a shuttle with a hyperdrive on it."

"Aye sir."



Part Six: Lambert's Star, Wilderness Space, Galactic North, 15/02/4480

"This is Admiral Ralph Young of the TSS New Toronto. I need to speak to the senior military commander from David."

A bloodied but battered face greeted him. "Marcus Jonathan here, thank god you've come. Yes, I'm with David - what's left of it."

"Good. Mister Jonathan, can you speak for the rest of your people on David?"

"Yeah, what's left of us. Why?"

Admiral Ralph Young smiled. "Then kindly call for a ceasefire. We're the Alliance, and we're here to help you."

+ + +

Hart ducked under a half-collapsed doorway and faced Captain Jonathan in the flesh for the first time. "Good to see you survived, captain. What happened after we left?"

Jonathan smiled wearily at the dark-uniformed Alliance officer. His own white uniform hidden under the light armour he'd been wearing when the Alliance task force had arrived. "They took out everything we had in orbit is what. The Core Empire, I mean. My ship included, although we had enough warning to get most of the crew out. Then they just left and let the inner planets attack, the bastards." Jonathan gestured to the room around him. "We must've been no more than six hours away from total collapse when that Admiral Young of yours arrived in-system and started making demands of everyone." He reached for the canteen around his waist and took a long draught. "So what happens now?"

Hart shrugged and looked around. "The Alliance has agreed to recognise an outer planets government based here on David, but for now this whole star system is under occupation. Admiral Young brought two factory ships and about a hundred medi- and evac- carriers with the task force, so at least it won't take long to get everything rebuilt."

"Guess that means the fighting's over then."

Hart nodded slowly. "Pretty much. The last I heard, Schwarzschild was banging heads together aboard the New Toronto to get a peace treaty hammered out." She smiled suddenly. "I hope he wasn't talking literally."

Jonathan just leant back, eyes closed, finally feeling able to rest for the first time in two days. "Are the Harpies hanging around?" he asked after a minute or two.

"Just for another day, then we've got to continue on our patrol. I've got a sinking feeling your new government is going to want to heap praises on us or something along those lines."

"Probably," Jonathan agreed. "They want to pin a commodore's planets and about a dozen medals on me as well."

"Such is the price we pay for doing our duty," intoned Hart seriously, and Jonathan opened one eye to look at her, then chuckled. "Buy you a beer? There's a nice bar not far from here, behind the rear lines."

"There is?"

"There'd better be. I had the ship track down the nearest one and told it to shoot any looters. With the broadside guns."

"Ha! Well, I haven't heard any big explosions, so I guess nobody's tried to sneak past it. You're on."



+ Fin +



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Teleros, of Quintessence

Route North-442.116; Altacar Empire, SDNW 4 Nation; Lensman Tech Analysis

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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-16 09:06am
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I love this story. It's short and sharp, and it has an excellent mix of spaceships and dirtside adventure. And what's not to love about dashing warship commodores zipping about the galaxy saving the day? I wouldn't mind reading more at all!



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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-16 08:12pm
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This was a very good story, and I enjoyed it highly.

What I like most is how you hint at the background without drowning us in explanations. Hyperspace works, you "rotate" out of normal space into it. That's really all I need to know about the space-flight, the rest read like a good 1700s fleet engagement.



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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-02-16 08:32pm
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Glad you've enjoyed it, I guess I'll have to see if I can get something longer written up one of these days :) .

Quote:
What I like most is how you hint at the background without drowning us in explanations.

Yeah, I definitely tried to be careful with the exposition in it, looks like I've succeeded :) .

Question now is what to do for another story...



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Teleros, of Quintessence

Route North-442.116; Altacar Empire, SDNW 4 Nation; Lensman Tech Analysis

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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-03-17 03:06pm
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I am impressed with this story Teleros, as was said in this topic it's a nice mix of feet and ground pounders, also I like the way you did the whole techie bit, it sound plausable enough to me with out bogging it down in techno babble and I also enjoyed the way you have been hinting at the background of this story line without giving to much detail to the major players.
The only thing I found worng with this fine story is a lack of detailed battles in space and on the ground but I'm going to asume that you are slowly building up the to major combat which is nice in it'self.
You have the makings of a fince and classic story I'll be watching this with a keen eyes.
Well done and good work, I look forward to seeing more of this story.
LT.Hit-Man



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 Post subject: Re: Route North-442.116 PostPosted: 2010-03-23 11:16am
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I love the marine gun ho and the line about Tom. It leads to the feeling the tech is so advanced but it doesn't put any awe or the like in it. It's perfect, I would love to see the rest of this univerise expanded. (maybe a front in the neverending war?)

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