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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 12:41pm
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And we enter the end-game. This is the final chapter of the story that I submitted to Baen. I do hope that you enjoy it, gentlemen.

MA

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 02:28pm
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So, will these be the Orden-Kraal or something else entirely?

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 03:20pm
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masterarminas wrote:
And we enter the end-game. This is the final chapter of the story that I submitted to Baen. I do hope that you enjoy it, gentlemen.

MA


End game? we're just getting to the good parts...



You will be assimilated...bunghole!

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 05:34pm
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Chapter Ten (cont.)

A human would have found the light too dim, the heat too high, and the humidity simply too great to bear, but the crew of this ship were not even remotely human. Here in the ship’s nerve center—what humans would term a bridge—the Lord of the Nest looked up with six eye stalks as a subordinate clicked together his claws, the greater and the lesser, in submission to his superior—in both rank and caste.

“The spoor of their flight leads to here, Great Lord. We have visited this system in the past.”

“And it did not serve our purposes?”

“The prime species—a vertebrate species—had not yet achieved any form of industrial power. They were too primitive and too distant for our leaders of the time to bother with. That was six hundred cycles of life ago, other survey missions four hundred cycles back showed they had made little if any progress to true intelligence.”

“And there have not been more recent surveys?”

“Great Lord, the data on this system was lost in the archives, misfiled. None knew to dispatch a survey force, until our own trail led us to here—and cross-referencing the system led us to the information just retrieved.”

“Then we shall determine for ourselves if these primitives have finally advanced far enough to learn the ways of Ordan and serve us as they should. And of our quarry?”

“Their tachyon emissions are unique, Great Lord. They entered this system nearly a cycle ago—but our long-range scout reports no evidence that they have left this system. His observation ship has not entered the system, so as not to warn the quarry we track. Why they remain here is a mystery, they certainly did not originate from this system.”

“It is no matter, Librarian. We shall learn of their motivations soon enough, and discover what wondrous piece of technology allowed such a resounding announcement of their arrival in our space. And we shall likewise see if these native vertebrates are in need of culling.”

The Librarian clacked his pincers against his exo-skeleton, as did all the lesser castes on the bridge as the Great Lord rose from his resting station. “They shall be made to serve Ordan or they shall perish, so sayeth the Book of the Prophet, so sayeth the Kraal.”

“So sayeth the Kraal,” replied each of the beings present.

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 05:37pm
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Chapter Ten (cont.)

Michael Gavin’s face turned white after the Imperial liaison officer finished his briefing. “They are here? Now? This early?”

“They are, Mister President. Admiral Chandler has instructed me to formally inform you that the Imperial Fleet is moving to engage the enemy—but you need to order your national forces to stand ready if any get past him.”

Michael nodded, and he jerked his chin towards Tom who quietly exited the Oval Office. “How long?”

“They are a ways out still—six days if they keep to sub-light speeds. But,” the officer warned, “they might make a brief FTL jump if their commander sees the need; and if so, they could be in orbit in roughly one hour. It is dangerous, but they could.”

“Why would they do that?”

The Imperial smiled grimly. “If they see us coming out after them, then jumping in past us means our ships would have to flip, decelerate, and then accelerate in pursuit of them. And we are hoping to trick him into doing exactly that.”

Michael half-stood from behind his desk. “Trick them?”

“Calm yourself, Mister President,” he answered with a laugh. “We know what the Ordan-Kraal sensors are capable of . . . and we didn’t develop the CRT-series drones until well after we wiped them from the universe. Each of the drones is capable of duplicating the signature of a capital warship—it is only effective at extreme ranges, and the drones will drain their cells in just eighteen hours. But to the Crabs, it will look like the 342nd is coming out to meet them . . . and when they jump in, they will discover that our real ships remain in a position to intercept them.”

“But they outnumber you four-to-one, Commander Drake!”

“That they do . . . which is why Admiral Chandler wants you and every other power on the planet to sound the alert and standby. The 501st will deal with any landings, but multiple landings may well require your forces to engage until they can redeploy.” He stopped at the look at on the Presidents face. “This is our duty, Mister President. This is what the Imperial Fleet was built for—we will do our job . . . you do yours and get your people ready.” Leslie Drake shook his head. “I am not going to lie to you, Sir, we might not stop them all before they can drop troops and kinetic impactors. Which is why you need to pass the orders now.”

Michael Gavin sat back down in this seat and he picked up the phone. “Helen,” he began, but then stopped as a man’s voice emerged from the earpiece and the President chuckled. “Admiral Martin, I see that Mister Heath is being his usual efficient self.” Then he grew serious once more and the laughter died from his voice. “I am authorizing you to set DEFCON-2 for all strategic and conventional forces—alert all civil defense commands and ground all civilian air traffic. Invasion by the Ordan-Kraal is imminent.”

The President waited for a moment, and then he hung up the phone. “And now, if you will excuse me, Commander Drake, I need to get ready to address my nation.”

“Sir!” The Imperial officer answered as he snapped to attention.

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 05:49pm
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Chapter Ten (cont.)

“The Ordan-Kraal fleet has emerged, Admiral,” reported Marius Valentine from Tactical.

“Location?” demanded Jason.

“Just outside of Jupiter’s orbit, on a vector of 117 Mark 13, Sir. Remote sensor platforms are in range and should be updating . . . NOW.”

Jason put his hands on the edges of the holographic tank and he winced as the CIC updated the display. There were not forty point sources—there were sixty-two! Eight of the Apocalypse-class war carriers, each of which carried seventy-five fighters and bombers, two dozen Bombard-class cruisers, twenty-four Cutthroat-class destroyers, four Dagger-class scout ships, and twelve Execution-class transports. This was no Ordan-Kraal scout force . . . this was a full-bore culling fleet!

“Launch the drones,” he ordered briskly, keeping the despair from his voice and his face. “Let’s see if we can lure this Crab into taking the bait.”

Reprisal shuddered as she launch four drones; the other battleships of the 342nd each fired four as well, and both cruisers added another two. The small vessels formed up and then began to head outsystem toward the intruders at 3-g’s of acceleration, their powerful electronics gear simulating Jason’s ships to the best of their ability.

“Drones away, Admiral,” Valentine replied. “Eighteen hours to burnout.”

And now we wait, Jason thought.

*****************************************************

“Listen up!” Captain Hal Stevens, United States Navy, barked into the massive auditorium buried beneath Heinlein Base where his pilots were assembled. “Our training is now finished, aviators—the Ordan-Kraal are here. The fighters are being fueled and armed even as we speak . . . and we will be committed against them.”

Murmurs and whispers raced through the audience of Americans (Air Force, Navy, and Marines), British, Australian, Japanese, Koreans, French, German, Russian, Israeli, Turkish, Belgian, and pilots from a score of other nations. Each hand-picked to be the very first humans from this time trained to fly Imperial fighter craft.

Stevens nodded. “That’s right, ladies and gentlemen; now is time we earn our magnificent salaries. The Fleet is trying to sucker the Crabs right into range, but it is what we call a target-rich environment. Sensor platforms have positively indentified sixty plus capital ships; which means in excess of six hundred fighters and bombers. Thankfully, Admiral Chandler’s ships out gun any individual Crab vessel—but he is outnumbered five-to-one. We have the advantage in fighter strength, people, and our fighters are more capable than theirs—that doesn’t mean you can get overconfident! Their weapons will kill you quite easily, if you let them! And all of those capital ships carry point-defense . . . point defense we are going to have to enter in order to carry out our mission.”

The Navy veteran paused and he looked out over the five hundred and twenty-seven other pilots. “We weren’t expecting this to happen so soon . . . but this is why we volunteer to wear the uniform. If they get past us, if they land on the surface of the planet, then it is civilians at risk. It is our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

He stared at his pilots and each of them, no matter what their nationality nodded in affirmation. “The situation will be fluid and there will not be time for full briefings—we will have to rely on our contingency planning for this operation. Now, Lieutenant Ross, Imperial Fleet, will brief us on the capabilities of the Ordan-Kraal vessels we will be facing. Lieutenant?”

“Thank you, Sir. The basic Crab fighter is the Fury-class with an . . .”

Every pilot, weapon/sensor systems officer, and electronic warfare officer in the auditorium was taking notes and paying close attention. Stevens closed his eyes and he wondered just how many would be here tomorrow. Then he shook his head and he too began to jot down details on the enemy.

*****************************************************

“General, we have redeployed the 501st and the Gurkhas to the locations where the Crabs are most likely to land,” Brigadier Goodwin informed his commander. “Western Europe, the Northeast Corridor of the United States, the West Coast of North America, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and central Mexico. The PRC has forbidden our units entry into China, however, and historically that was their major landing zone—the heavily populated coastal regions.”

“Can’t be helped, Erwin,” Miles answered as he took a puff of his cigarette. “You’ve assigned a shock Cohort, a Gurkha Cohort, or the Marines to each landing zone?”

“Yes, sir, with a central reserve on the US Great Plains and in Turkey. I am holding back two Armored Shock Cohorts, one Gurkha Cohort, and Legion HQ as our stategic reserve here in Tibet, with Captain Vargas and his transports ready to move us anywhere in the world. In addition, Admiral Chandler left us the majority of his Marines and their shuttles as a rapid reaction force. The Praetorians and the newly raised Vancouver Reserve Cohort will defend the Enclave, if they try landing there. Local reserve forces from the various national governments are on full alert—and the Crabs ground equipment isn’t in our league, Sir.”

“No, Erwin. They do have a dozen brigades aboard those Exectuion-class, however—quantity has a quality all its own. And if their tanks are slower and tracked, they still carry mass driver cannons and plasma guns—just like ours.” He nodded as he looked over the map. “I approve your deployment, Brigadier. But for now, it is up to the Fleet.”

*****************************************************

“Your majesty,” newly promoted Captain Marius Beck said with a bow, “the Prime Minister of Sweden requests a few moments of your time.”

Julia raised an eyebrow and then she inclined her head slightly. “Thank you, Mister Beck, if you would be so kind as to send his message through, I would appreciate it.”

The naval officer bowed again and he turned back to his console. On the screen facing Julia, the blonde-haired visage of Stefan Sӧderling appeared. “Your Majesty,” he said bowing his head towards the screen.

“Mister Prime Minister,” she answered with a broad smile. “It is always a pleasure to speak with you, Stefan . . . what can the Empire do for you today?”

“Your Majesty, I know that perhaps the two of us do not exact perceive many issues with the same eyes, but I requested a few moments of your time to ask if you have considered a diplomatic resolution to the Ordan-Kraal incursion? It is not too late to avoid a conflict and resolve our issues without a conflict,” he held up one hand. “I realize that our efforts may well fail in that regards, but without making the attempt, we are no more than barbarians.”

Caesar Julia nodded her head solemnly. “Prime Minister Sӧderling, your advice and your candor are always appreciated by this government—despite your intention to remain a neutral power outside of the Empire of Humanity. I will consult with members of my government over your recommendation and I assure you that I will take it under advisement.”

Stefan Sӧderling shook his head. “We do not make the attempt for their sakes, Your Majesty; we make it for our own. I will await the news of this day with hope . . . but my armed forces are on full alert. Go with God, Your Majesty.”

“And you as well, Mister Prime Minister,” Julia answered as the screen flickered and died. Beside Julia, her husband snorted.

Talk to the Crabs? Resolve this diplomatically?”

“Now, now, Fleet Admiral and Warlord Chandler; you know how much the governments of this present time cherish their naïve optimism,” Julia answered with a smile. “But Stefan is quite correct that we do need to contact the Ordan-Kraal. Send forth Our message to them, my husband.”

Jason bowed. “As Caesar commands.”

*****************************************************

The Lord of the Nest clicked his claws again at the images projected onto the screen. “They still accelerate towards us?”

“Yes, Great Lord,” one of the lesser Kraal replied. “They have continued to accelerate for six parts of a day.”

“So,” the massive commander whispered. “They know no fear of us, coming to face us at these odds.”

“Great Lord! We are receiving a transmission from the vertebrates!”

“Can our software translate the message?”

“Great Lord,” the lesser Kraal answered as he lowered himself to the deck, “they are transmitting the message in High Kraal!”

Shock reverberated across the bridge, and each of six eyestalks of the Lord of the Nest blinked. “On speaker!” he commanded. And a high-pitched sound emerged from the speakers; it was too high-pitched and not properly accented with the clicking of claws, but it was intelligible enough as High Kraal.

“This system and its native species know well of the Kraal; we know well of the teachings of Ordan. And we shall not accept those teachings as a servitor race to the Kraal. If you care for the future of your spawn, you will reverse course and leave this system, never to return. Any attack upon the peoples of Humanity,” and the Great Lord of the Kraal blinked at this unknown word, “will result in the annihilation of your people. You have been warned.”

The Librarian hissed, showing his feelings of outrage that the Lord of the Nest felt as well. “Apostates, Great Lord! They know of Ordan and they reject him! They are Apostates who stand against the Kraal!”

“Indeed,” the Great Lord whispered. “Ship-guider! Prepare the Fleet to execute a jump past the Apostate fleet and into orbit—we will cull this species, and their defenders will be fifteen parts of a day behind us. To victory!”

“TO VICTORY!”

*****************************************************

“Admiral, the Ordan-Kraal fleet has executed their jump—forty-one minutes from Earth orbit,” Marius reported.

Jason stood and he glanced down at his wife. She nodded at him. “All ships, all station, and Heinlein Base . . . you may fire as you bear.”

*****************************************************

The Librarian jerked upright as the holographic projection updated. “They are here! Not behind us, but here! This is a trap!”

“Calm yourself,” the Lord of the Nest commanded. “They are here, but they are outnumbered by our forces five-to-one. All ships engage the apostates!”

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 05:57pm
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Chapter Ten (cont.)

The bomber rocked as a Havoc off of its starboard wing suddenly exploded, and William Wallace cursed. “Keep them off our tail, Petey!” he ordered as he kept the bomber boring in towards the capital ship on his display.

“On it, Highlander,” the EW officer replied from his isolated cockpit, the Havoc quivering as the tail guns unleashed burst after burst into the Crab fighters swarming around.

“Black Sheep, arm Vanquishers,” William ordered, and his console lit up with four new amber lights, showing the heavy anti-ship missiles were now active. “Rambler, get me a lock on that cruiser.”

“Aye, aye, Highlander,” Simpson answered from the rear seat.

“We’ve got three on our six, Highlander! I can’t hold them off!” Petey yelled out as plasma and tungsten from the Crabs tore past to either side of the Havoc.

“Where the hell are our escorts?” William demanded. “Ramrod, we need some cover here!”

Suddenly the three Fury-class interceptors behind Highlander exploded and a division of Warhawks flew by. “Everyone needs cover today, Highlander,” the lead pilot broadcast. “You folks owe me a beer.”

William shook his head as the strike fighters of the Jolly Rodgers began a turn, and then he blanched as a Crab flight tore into them—and Lieutenant Commander Harold Jenkins and his WSO died in a fireball as their Warhawk exploded.

“I’ll leave it on your grave, Hal,” the bomber squadron commander whispered.

“Missiles locked! We are in range!”

“Black Sheep! FIRE!”

Seventeen surviving Havocs released a total of sixty-eight of the heavy Vanquishers from their internal bays, the bombers peeling away as the drives aboard the missiles lit off and began to accelerate towards the enemy Fleet. William was too busy flying the bomber to watch the strike go in, but Rambler was calling out the rapidly decreasing range—and the number of missiles being picked off by point defense.

Six missiles evaded the hostile fire and slammed into the shields of the cruiser that they squadron had selected—and when the glare of the explosions died away, only debris remained on the screen. “Outstanding, Black Sheep!” William broadcast. “Now let’s get back to Heinlein, rearm and do that again!” Two more cruisers and three destroyers died under the fire of the Imperial fighter strikes—of course, that left only fifty-six ships with which to deal with.

*****************************************************

Reprisal shuddered as an Ordan-Kraal anti-ship missile slammed into her shields, but this was the type of fight she had been designed for. The shields held, and between the CAP and her own point-defense fire, that had been the only leaker of this wave of Crab bombers.

“Havocs returning to Heinlein to rearm, Admiral,” Marius reported.

“Very well. Range to target?”

“Thirty-seven thousand kilometers meters.”

“The battle-line will advance to thiry thousand kilometers and engage the enemy; try and hold the range open as long as you can; cruiser division will remain in support. Instruct Captain Veltroni he may begin his torpedo run at his discretion.”

“Aye, aye, Sir.”

“And Marius?”

“Yes, Admiral?”

“Inform Commodore Kennedy that he may engage the moment his batteries achieve range.”

“Aye, aye, Sir.”

*****************************************************

“Message from Reprisal!” the communications officer of Heinlein Base called out. Commodore Liam Kennedy, the commander of the base carved out of the rock of Earth’s moon looked up. “Admiral Chandler has authorized us to fire at your discretion, Sir.”

Liam smiled. His position as divisional commander of Battle Division 342A aboard Renown had always seemed like a fifth wheel, especially since Jason Chandler commanded the entire squadron from aboard Reprisal. But that was no longer the case, not since the Admiral had transferred him here, to serve as the commander of the fixed lunar Base and the orbital stations charged with the final defense of Earth itself.

Of the four stations, only Apollo had her weapons fitted and would play a role in this battle, but all of Heinleins weapons were on-line and ready as well. The guns mounted on the lunar surface were far too massive even for warships the size of the Leviathans to carry, but they were not more destructive. All of that added mass had gone into increasing their range—whereas the 45cm weapons aboard the battleships could reach just 30,000 kilometers, the long 54s of the lunar base could reach twice as far, although the price for that reach was a reduced payload, barely as intense as the guns of the battleships, in addition to the sheer mass and incredible power requirements. Each of the 54cm planetary defense guns required their own fusion reactor . . . and two full minutes between shots. And of course, with a range of 60,000 kilometers, Earth itself was far outside of their reach—but the Crabs approach would bring them within his envelope, albeit briefly.

And if his guns couldn’t the Earth, his planetary defense torpedoes could. The Thor missiles stored in silos dug deep within the crust of the moon were three times the size of the Nikes used by the Fleet. They carried the same 220-kiloton warhead, but these torpedoes had three separate stages, and they had the reach to engage targets in low Earth orbit. Sixty-five meters in overall length, with a third-stage diameter of five-meters, the Thors were expensive, hard-to-manufacture, but worth every last penny in the planetary defense role.

Liam smiled. “Mister Chou,” he said to his tactical officer. “Lock the Alpha-group of Thors unto their cruisers and fire. Release the plasma guns to engage any targets within range.”

“Aye, aye, Sir.”

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 06:07pm
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Chapter Ten (cont.)

One hundred and ninety-two Thor missiles—one quarter of Heinleins inventory—erupted out of their salvoes and streaked down-range towards the Ordan-Kraal fleet, and the Lord of the Nest felt his twin stomachs contract as he realized this was no defenseless species awaiting its turn to be culled—this was a threat to integrity of the Kraal itself! “Cruisers and carriers engage the enemy at maximum acceleration!” he ordered. “Destroyers provide cover to the transports—land our forces and exterminate all that you can.”

As the lesser Kraal moved to comply, the Lord turned to the Librarian. “Send a message to the Scouts—they must inform the Great Lords of the threat we face here—quickly, before their missiles arrive and destroy this vessel.”

The Librarian scuttled off, and the Lord of the Nest sat back and watched the planetary defense missiles as they approached, even as a hail of plasma fire streaked out from the surface of the moon and the four largest enemy ships—plasma fire at impossible ranges. The Kraal must be told, he thought as the War Carriers point defense began to spit and hammer at the incoming torpedoes. It was his last thought for a dozen Thors impacted on his shields and burnt through the light armor to wipe his Flagship from existence.

*****************************************************

Six destroyers charged into the teeth of the Ordan-Kraal formation, plasma bolts from the battleships and the moon base tearing apart ships in their path as they closed to unleash their torpedo barrage—but the carnage was far from one-sided. Wallenstein shuddered as the fire from no fewer than six Crab cruisers slammed into her shields, and then she vanished in an eye-tearing glare, taking Captain Gianfranco Veltroni with her. Charlemagne was luckier, her shields were penetrated, but fewer plasma bolts struck her bare hull—still, she spun out of formation bleeding atmosphere into the void. But the four surviving destroyers reached their range and they salvoed their torpedoes, their plasma guns firing in all directions as they sliced through the center of the Ordan-Kraal formation. Then the ships spun on their axis and began to decelerate for another pass.

*****************************************************

“All ships!” barked Jason, “they are going for the planet—target the transports!” he ordered as the surviving Crab destroyers and their transports began to accelerate again towards the planet behind them. But at the same time, the seven surviving cruisers and single badly damaged war carrier charged the battle-line—Lancer and Crusader interposed their own hulls between humanities only battleships and the enemy, and they exchanged fire, salvoing their own torpedoes against the threat while the battleships began to range on the transports. Despite that courage, three Ordan-Kraal ships staggered out of the holocaust, their own plasma guns spitting death.

One Crab cruiser and then the second exploded, but the Imperial cruisers were taking hits of their own—and then the third cruiser rammed Lancer amidships and both vessels were engulfed in tremendous fireball from which only debris emerged.

The Ordan-Kraal transports launched scores—hundreds—of shuttlecraft as they entered the range of Apollo Station, and then the transport ships died. But the eleven remaining Crab destroyers followed the shuttles in, ignoring fire from the station, ignoring the hell-bolts erupting from the Imperial battleline, and they—in the seconds remaining before they too were converted in expanding clouds of debris—salvoed hundreds of kinetic energy weapons and missiles towards the surface.

*****************************************************

Many of the weapons were not properly aimed, and the point defense fire from Apollo thinned out the cloud of torpedoes—only eleven of the multi-hundred kiloton weapons managed to impact on the surface. Baltimore, Albany, and Quebec were struck in North America. Munich, Strasbourg, Milan, and the Hague in Europe. Istanbul took a direct hit as well; as did Brisbane, Shanghai, and Bangkok. But the lighter kinetic weapons rained down indiscriminately across the face of the planet—two hundred and eleven different targets suffered an impact that triggered an explosion nearly as powerful as the bomb that had once upon a time leveled Hiroshima. The American and Canadian North-east, Europe, Russia, and eastern China, Korea, and Japan took the brunt of the impacts, although every continent suffered damage.

And in their wake, four divisions of Crab foot-soldiers and armored vehicles swarmed towards their landing zones—one just outside of Beijing, the second in northern France, the third in Pennsylvania, and the fourth in India.

*****************************************************

“Admiral, tracking has identified two Plague-bearer-class viral bombardment shuttles among the Crab landing forces!” Marius shouted across the bridge.

Jason spun around. “Location?”

“One is accompanying the forces landing in Europe; the second in India.”

Jason glanced at the holographic display and he made quickly calculated distances and flight times. “Order Renown to salvo her full load of torpedoes—proximity fused—at the Crab shuttles approaching Europe—they are still over the Atlantic.” He turned backed to holographic display and bit his lip. The contingent landing in India was already landing near Mumbai.

He shook his head and turned to his wife—his Empress. “Your Majesty, I need your authorization here.”

The blood drained from her face. “How soon?”

“As quickly as possible if we are to stop it, Your Majesty.”

Marius Beck spoke up, “European strike force eliminated 124 kilometers off the coast—including the Plague-bearer. EM pulse has taken much of the UK, Ireland, and Norway off-line, as well as all of Europe west of the Rhine and north of the Meuse.”

Julia nodded. “Can you patch me through to the Indian Prime Minister, Captain Beck?”

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 06:14pm
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Chapter Ten (cont.)

“You cannot possibly ask me this!” Prime Minister Arjun Patil yelled in shock. “There are thirty-five million people in and around that city!”

Jason shook his head. “We estimate that fifty million will die in the bombardment, Mister Prime Minister—that shuttle can fire viral bombs out to a distance of fifty kilometers . . . we cannot risk any infected organism surviving.”

Patil was speechless, his mouth opened and closed. He blinked twice, three times, and then four, before he regained his voice. “Can you not wait? Confirm if they are infecting our people?”

Julia spoke up. “Arjun . . . the virus they are using is highly infectious and it kills one out of every ten people it infects. One in ten. As massively populated as India is, you will lose at least one hundred and seventy million people if we do not—and the world as a whole will see three quarters of a billion dead. I am begging you, Mister Prime Minister,” she pleaded, “let us end this while we can.”

“There are medicines, treatments, you Imperials must have them!”

“We do . . . but this disease will kill within seven days of infection—and the only effective treatment must be administered within three days of infection,” Julia answered. “And we do not have seven and a half billion doses of this medicine, Mister Prime Minister. We do not have even one percent of that amount. We didn't . . .,” she lowered her head and then raised it again defiantly, "I didn't think we would need it this soon. And there were more pressing matters at the time, Arjun."

The Indian blinked again and he shook his head. “I cannot do this, I cannot condemn these cities to death. I cannot order my own forces to detonate nuclear weapons on our own soil.”

Jason licked his lips. “I can, Mister Prime Minister,” he whispered. “If you will allow us to, that is.”

The man on the screen turned grey and he sat down at his desk and he sobbed into his hands, reciting a prayer in Hindi for several moments. But at last he looked up. And he nodded, and the screen went blank.

Jason closed his eyes. “Mister Beck,” he said in a resolute voice. “Prepare torpedo launch cells One through Ninety-Six for saturation airburst . . . your target is Mumbai, India. Program the warheads to inject the reserve tritium prior to detonation for maximum yield. Instead Leviathan and Vanguard the same.”

“Aye, aye, Sir. Regulations require that this order be confirmed, Admiral.”

Julia stood. “Captain Beck, I confirm the order issued by Admiral Chandler. Release of nuclear weapons upon a civilian population is hereby authorized.”

Marius Beck came to attention and he saluted. “Ma’am,” he said before turning back to his post. “Attention all personal. Prep torpedo launch cells One through Ninety-Six for saturation airburst . . . target Mumbai, India. Program the warheads for maximum yield. The release of nuclear weapons upon a civilian population has been authorized and confirmed.”

He sat down the phone and one final phrase escaped from his lips. “God help us all.”

*****************************************************

The panicked population of Mumbai was too intent on trying to escape the alien invaders who had landed next to one of the largest cities of the world. The Indian army was far too busy fighting and dying to allow them to escape. None noticed the contrails far overhead as two hundred and eighty-eight Nike torpedoes entered the atmosphere and fanned out over the country-side. Simultaneously, all of them detonated high above, and nearly three hundred fireballs, each the product of a 1.1-megaton fusion explosion reached out, overlapped, and cleansed the ground and air below of all life . . . human, animal, Kraal, bacteria, and viral alike.

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 06:31pm
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Epilogue

Julia cried as she stood at the windows of her office overlooking the city of Victoria far below. The rain falling from the heavens made it seem as though God himself was crying along with her. She lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply—a habit that she had once thought she would never adopt.

The world was still picking up the pieces from the Ordan-Kraal assault three weeks ago. Over one hundred million were dead—fifty-two in and around Mumbai alone. Recovery teams were working around the clock to provide shelter and food and medicine to the survivors, not only in India, but in the all of the impact points around the world, where Kraal weapons had struck the surface. On the bright side, Julia thought as she shook her head, there was no longer any doubt about whether or not the Kraal existed. And the integration of national armed forces into the Imperial Legions and Navy was about to start growing exponentially.

But the threat was not over, and there still remained much opposition to the Empire.

While the 501st had quickly dispatched the landings in North America, the Chinese had refused to allow the Imperial forces to enter their territory and fight the Crabs—at least until the People’s Liberation Army had been crushed in the fighting around Beijing. The last alien had been killed just ten days ago, and then the Imperials ordered off China’s soil without so much as a thank you.

Many world leaders, not all, but many, believed that the Fleet had deliberately allowed to the Kraal to land, and they blamed the Imperials for drawing them here sixty years early. To say that humanity was bitterly divided against itself would be an understatement—and the earlier missteps of the Imperials in dealing with local governments had now come back to haunt them.

And it had not helped that those opposing the Imperials had made certain that every man, woman, and child on the planet knew the ones who had destroyed Mumbai were not the alien invaders, but the Empire of Humanity. Julia had heard commentators ask if the virus had even existed—or if it had just been an excuse for the Empire to satisfy its bloodlust.

She watched the rain fall, as tears trickled down her cheeks, and she took another puff.

And then she heard a throat clear behind her.

Caesar crushed out her cigarette in a small ash-tray someone had left there for her, and she patted her cheeks dry and collected herself before she turned around, walked over to her desk, and sadly smiled at Nathan Serrano.

“What is it, Nat?” she asked as she took a seat.

“President Gavin, my Lady,” the chief of staff answered. “He is holding on line 3.”

“Thank you,” Julia answered as she checked her appearance in a small mirror and then activated the communications device. “President Gavin, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Your Majesty. I wanted to say thank you, on behalf of my country—I am well aware that not many people have said that to you. Now that we have defeated the Ordan-Kraal, perhaps we can begin to learn to live together, make right some of the misperceptions on both sides.”

Julia shook her head. “Mister President,” she said softly. “We defeated this one Ordan-Kraal expedition. Their Fleet is large enough that they could send, within less than a year’s time, if they so choose, the same or even twice as much against us again, and then again in another year. We won a victory, Michael—a victory that cost us much. But we have not defeated the Ordan-Kraal, we have let them know where we are and showed them exactly how much of a threat to them Humanity poses. They will be back.”

“None of their ships escaped, or so my advisors told me,” Michael stated.

The young woman nodded. “None of their expedition escaped, but our sensors detected two scouts after the battle that entered T-space—far outside of our system. The Ordan-Kraal leadership will soon know that Earth destroyed this force . . . and they will be back in even greater numbers, Michael.”

Julia looked out as the rain drops fell harder and a bolt of lightning thundered across the sky. “They will be back—and they will do their best to destroy us. We have bought time—dearly bought a little time and if we do not unite before this threat, we will all fall into the abyss.” She looked back at the monitor and she smiled again. “I fear that by coming here, to Earth, we may have doomed humanity instead of saving it, Michael. Throughout the Ordan-Kraal Wars in our time, they always under-estimated us, they never brought their full strength to bear until it was too late . . . now, they know we are a threat for we destroyed an entire Culling Fleet without a single survivor escaping. And the Crabs will reply to that. In force. They have seen our ships as well and we cannot expect that they will not soon begin building their own battleships—ships that the Ordan-Kraal never had in my history, because in their arrogance they waited too long to start building them."

She shook her head again. “No, Michael, it is far from over. I fear that is merely beginning.”

*****************************************************

“Give us eighteen months, and we will have the first of your new destroyers ready for trials, Admiral,” Commander Philippe Cruz said proudly as he gazed out the observation bay of Apollo’s yards. The bare skeletons of four ships sat within the slips as workers swarmed over them, moving equipment and hull plates into position. The flares of welding lasers burned in the pressurized (but null-gravity) slips, and in the wake of the Ordan-Kraal attack, the workers (from both the future and the present) moved with a new motivation.

Jason nodded. “We may not have eighteen months, Commander,” he said quietly. “I cannot divert workers from the other stations and Titan to you—what you have is all I can spare for the foreseeable future.”

“Fair enough, Admiral. Fair enough—my people understand what is at stake, and we will have your ships ready as soon as humanly possible. On the ordnance side, the torpedo production lines have worked out the kinks, and we should be able to restock all of your ships and Heinlein once we hit our stride. Two months, at the outside. After that, we can begin to stockpile the weapons. Fighter and bomber production is on schedule—the limit there is the number of trained pilots and crew. But we should have all of our lost birds replaced within the next forty-five days, and then every bird after that will go to a new squadron.”

“Good. The Ordan-Kraal came on a lot stronger than I anticipated, Commander—we may have to rely on those bombers and fighters to carry the brunt of our defenses for the foreseeable future. And that other project I asked you to look into?”

Cruz winced. “The fireship design is simple—we can turn out a minimum of three hundred in the next year. But Admiral . . . kamikazes?”

“It worked for Michael Collins in the Third Culling . . . and we might well need them again if they come back before we are fully ready.”

The shipyard engineer shook his head. “Can you order men to fly them? This isn’t the world of Michael Collins, Admiral.”

Jason sighed as he gazed out over the hustle and bustle of the construction crews. “No, it isn’t that world. And yes, Commander, I can give that order—and there will be volunteers for those fireships if it comes down to it. The human race has seen the Ordan-Kraal now, they have seen it for themselves, and there will be men and women who come forward who are willing to ram Crab warships carrying a one megaton suicide charge. There will be enough men and women who lost family in the first attack, who have nothing to live for except for vengeance; there will be othes willing to sacrifice themselves to defend their loved ones.” Jason turned and he looked at the engineer’s bleak expression. “That is one of our strengths as a species, Commander Cruz,” he continued. “When we are pushed far enough, we have an almost limitless capacity for hate—and a burning need for revenge.”

The Admiral of the Fleet, Warlord of the Empire, and Prince-Consort to the Empress of Humanity turned his gaze back upon the frenzied work underway in the building slips. “The Ordan-Kraal were annihilated by less than two and a half billion human survivors of their efforts to conqueror us in my time. They have no clue what the fuck they have unleashed in this time—not with three times the population and our industry mostly intact. I would say that they will live to regret their ambitions, but they will not. No, Commander, this war will end with seventeen dead Crab systems—and a race of sapient beings exterminated from the universe.”

“We frown on genocide in this day and time, Admiral.”

Jason snorted. “Some of you do, yes. But the majority of the people down there? The common men and women who are frightened and anxious and who want the threat to them and their children to be over and done with? No. Those people will be the ones who demand the annihilation of the Ordan-Kraal, not your conscientious governments and organizations and religions. They will demand it—and the Fleet will carry out that mission. That is who we as human are, Commander—that is what we do. When faced with a threat to our very survival as a species and people, we don’t take half-measures, we do what we must do to ensure that if one race passes into the annals of history as a footnote, it will not be us. No. They have no fucking idea of the whirlwind they have provoked.”

Philippe Cruz didn’t say a word, he just nodded, and then he too turned his gaze back upon the masses of metal and composite that would soon be transformed into ships.

*****************************************************

The High Lord of the Grand Nest of Kraal shook his carapace in disbelief. “The Culling Fleet dispatched to find these newcomers has been destroyed? All of it?”

The lesser Kraal crouched low, but the present High Lord had not achieved his position by killing the bearer of ill news. He gazed out over the assembly that surrounded him and he drew himself up to his full height.

“This affront must be answered! The Apostates must be struck down! Assemble the Battle Fleet of Ordan-Kraal and our servitors in orbit . . . when it has been assembled, then shall we all watch as this world BURNS! So sayeth the Kraal!”

“SO SAYETH THE KRAAL!”

“SO SAYETH THE KRAAL!”

“SO SAYETH THE KRAAL!”

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 06:37pm
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And with that, this story is now finished. I left it here, because IF Baen had chosen to pick it, this is the perfect place to stop and have readers demand a sequel.

MA

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 06:42pm
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I want a sequel! That was pretty damn epic. Couldn't help but notice a few recurring names from your other works though. The Ordan-Kraal sound rather familiar :D



"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 06:57pm
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Eternal_Freedom wrote:
I want a sequel! That was pretty damn epic. Couldn't help but notice a few recurring names from your other works though. The Ordan-Kraal sound rather familiar :D


Yep; this actually came first. When writing Star Trek: Republic, I needed the names of alien species, my brain froze; so I used Kraal for one and made Ordan the 'god' of the other. But this use came first.

MA

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 07:03pm
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I thought as much. I'm fairly certain there was an Ensign Roberts in this story too. Eitherway, it's very good, and I borrow characters from my works all the time.



"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

"Bones' remedies for problems seems to revolve around giving his patients a prescription of heavy drugs, booze, or taking them to strip clubs. He is either insane, a drug addict, or the best damn Doctor in Starfleet!" - SFDebris

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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-15 11:05pm
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I can't wait to see what happens.



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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-16 01:01am
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The odd thought occurred to me... how do Krall legs taste? :twisted:

(And why do I have a feeling that somebody in either China or Japan already knows the answer?)



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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-17 10:46am
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So, some stuff that I think could be expanded upon. First, the aftermath of the liberation of Tibet involved the media eating the Chinese propaganda hook, line, and sinker. How did that get resolved? I'd think that at some point the "sensationalist" media would have to be given a harsh wakeup call. Second, what were the political aftereffects? At what point did China sue for peace (if ever)? It was mentioned the PLA was crushed during the Krall invasion...how did that occur? Were they really that outmatched? How many Chinese civilians died? It was also mentioned that there were "other missteps" that came back to bite the Imperials, especially in the nuking of Mumbai. What were those missteps? Also, given the nuking was authorized by the Indian government, what effect did that have on the public reaction?

So I second the call for a sequel...not just to answer these questions but because there's still a galaxy full of crabs that need to be made into sushi. The story has really only just begun. :)



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 Post subject: Re: In Harm's Way PostPosted: 2012-09-25 06:21pm
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Well done MA

I sincerly hope u have a sequel pending and that this story will not go unfinished.

Job well done on the 1. part.

Hope there will be more :) :angelic:

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