“This is your final warning,” said Commander Jeffery Bainbridge of Sea of Boston, a Human Empire Frigate, to a Miccvan frigate that had been trespassing into Human Empire territory for several months, if not years. The Miccvans came regularly to refuel in the Fexsol system, the first system colonized by Human Empire after the Revelation.
“No response,” said the first officer, Lieutenant Lisa Jensen. “No reaction at all.”
Jeffery mentally sighed, then cursed.
“Very well,” he said, not allowing his concern to be reflected in his voice. “Launch torpedo bombers and escorts. Advance toward the enemy. Ready all weapons.”
“Yes, sir!” said Lisa and carried out her orders.
Jeffery watched the tactical screen as the torpedo bombers and their escorts advanced toward the enemy.
“Long range weapons ready, sir!” said Lisa.
“Fire a warning shot to their engines. Low power. Don’t damage them,” ordered Jeffery.
“That got their attention,” said the weapons officer, Lieutenant Darnell Carroll, after firing a low power laser beam against the Miccvan frigate. “They are turning toward us! They are targeting us!” he shouted and looked at Jeffery. He was young and his worry was clearly visible.
“To hell with this,” said Jeffery. “Maximum power to weapons! Fire on my mark!”
“Commander!” shouted the communications officer, Lieutenant Lance Watkins. “Two enemy frigates decloaking!”
“They are all targeting us!” shouted Darnell. Worry was now very clear in his voice and tensions rose on the bridge.
Jeffery cursed again. There was no turning back--the enemy was approaching and they were outnumbered. Retreat was out of the question and there was no room for any subtle tactics. He had to use what he had.
“No retreat!” answered Jeffery to the unspoken question from the crew. “We end this now. Full speed ahead! Fire on my mark!” He tried to sound confident against the superior enemy and chose targets for the weapons. “Ready?”
“Commander!” shouted Lance. “Enemy decloaking! It’s a cruiser!” Jeffery cursed aloud as the cruiser appeared beside the advancing frigates.
But before Jeffery could do anything, the science officer, Lieutenant Tricia Reese, yelled in surprise, “Commander! It’s the Ocean of Titan!”
“It’s firing!” shouted Darnell, and they saw how the heavy cruiser, Ocean of Titan, the flagship of the Human Empire Navy, hammered the nearest frigate to pieces.
“Fire everything we got!” ordered Jeffery and targeted the frigate farthest away from the Ocean of Titan.
Torpedo bombers and their fighter escorts had stopped their advance before managing to fire a single torpedo. The pilots just leaned back and watched as the Ocean of Titan destroyed the second enemy frigate and the Sea of Boston destroyed the third frigate with ease before the enemy got over their surprise.
“Ha ha ha,” laughed Darnell, and the bridge crew joined the laughter.
“That taught them!” said Tricia.
Jeffery was all smiles.
“Incoming hail from the Ocean of Titan, sir!” said Lance.
“Put them on screen.” Jeffery smiled and Commander Jiao Bai, of the Ocean of Titan, appeared on the main screen.
“Apologies for crashing your party, Jeffery,” she said and clearly didn’t mean it at all. She had obviously enjoyed herself.
“No apologies needed, Commander,” said Jeffery. “If you hadn’t come, we wouldn’t be here.”
Jiao smiled. “You’re right. Lucky that we came . . . may I come aboard?”
“Of course, ma’am,” said Jeffery, slightly surprised.
“Good,” said Jiao. “Talk to you soon.”
Unbeknownst to Jeffery and Jiao, the battle had been monitored by a cloaked corvette, Lake of Nevada, the most advanced ship of the Human Empire Navy, which was under direct command of Commander William Johnson of the Special Intelligence Center. William was also secretly the ultimate authority of the Human Empire. And immortal, although still very young--a thousand-year-old immortal.
“Excellent work, Commander,” commended Advisor Milton of the Miccvan Empire. “Excellent. The cruiser was a surprise.”
William glanced at Milton and grunted. “As were your two frigates.”
“Heh heh,” laughed Milton. “I wanted to give you a challenge.”
“Challenge indeed,” said William. “Without the Ocean of Titan, we would have lost.”
“Ah.” Milton smiled. “But you had your cruiser and you didn’t lose.”
“True,” said William, also smiling. “I believe we achieved our goal. We had our victory against a superior force.”
“Sir?” interrupted the science officer, Lieutenant Udo Thomas. “The data you requested.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” said William. He was eager to see the data about the battle and the reaction to it back on Earth. More importantly, the data related to a top-secret project known only to handful of people. Udo had been testing the new version of their cloaking device and the cloak detection system. A small indicator hidden in the data told William that all the tests had been successful.
“Excellent news,” said William, delighted. “Take a look.”
Milton took the tablet that showed Primary News Service, PriNS, and Secondary News Service, SeNS, already presenting footage of the battle and both cheered Navy for victory. SeNS even went so far to dub the victory as “the second Revelation.”
“You did achieve your goal,” commented Milton. “Humans have now shown their worth in the galaxy and in the Coalition. And you have no need for fear of the unknown in the galaxy anymore. News of your victory will spread.”
“As will news of your defeat,” said William.
“You’re right, but that doesn’t matter,” said Milton without concern. “Victories come and go and few care about these kind of skirmishes. Besides, you had a worthy victory. Excellent tactics to bring in the cruiser.”
“It pays to be prepared.” William smiled again.
Jiao arrived at the Sea of Boston and was cheered by the crew the second she opened the shuttle door.
“Commander.” Jeffery saluted once Jiao had managed to get through the cheering crew and then shook her hand. “I can’t say how glad I was when we realized it was you decloaking.”
“My pleasure.” Jiao smiled. “May we discuss in private? I have to go back to my ship and be on my way.”
“Certainly,” said Jeffery and led the way to the observation deck.
“What I’m about to say can’t leave this room,” said Jiao in a serious tone after they’d walked in front of the window that looked toward a gas planet.
“Ma’am?” said Jeffery curiously.
“It was good that we were here, wasn’t it?” asked Jiao, looking at Jeffery.
“Yes, it was,” answered Jeffery. “But how come you were here? I wasn’t told of any backup. My orders were to drive away the enemy frigate by any means necessary.”
“That’s an interesting story,” said Jiao. “Six months ago I was called to see Admiral Dana Anderson.”
Jeffery raised his eyebrows. Anderson was one of the Admirals in the MilFor Board, in charge of the Navy.
“I didn’t know that I’d meet Anderson when I was called for briefing, but there she was, alone,” said Jiao. “She ordered me to go on a patrol to selected systems and to remain at all times cloaked. I was not allowed to decloak for any reason. Under penalty of death,” added Jiao.
“What?” interrupted Jeffery, surprised. “Excuse me?”
“Under penalty of death,” said Jiao. “I also interrupted her, but she didn’t allow me to ask any questions. But it gets even stranger… the patrol route ended here one month ago.”
There was a pause as the words sank in.
“One month ago, you said? So you’ve been here for a month? You’ve seen the Miccvans before?”
“I saw them--the same frigate--twice before today,” said Jiao. “I had very specific orders.”
“And those were?” asked Jeffery.
“My orders were to wait until one of our frigates showed up and engaged the Miccvan frigate. Anderson was very specific that I should not reveal myself,” said Jiao, “not unless there were more than one enemy ship. And only if that happened, I’d have full authority to destroy the enemy.”
Again there was a pause and Jeffery felt a strange feeling in his stomach. “I got my orders only a few days ago. They said I was the nearest vessel from Fexsol and that their patience had gone long enough and I should drive the Miccvan frigate away. By any means necessary, they said. And they were very specific about that.”
“Do you understand what this means?” asked Jiao.
Jeffery thought for a moment, then shook his head. “I’m not sure if I want to understand. Or even think about it. It’s way above my pay grade.”
Jiao looked at Jeffery thoughtfully and finally said, “You are right about that. Do you know why? Because after Admiral Anderson left, a commander from Military Intelligence came in and told me that if I wanted, I could share my orders with the commander who’d come to Fexsol. There’s definitely something going on in the background here.
“Besides,” she continued, “The way the commander said that I could tell you about it if I wanted to left me little choice not to tell you. I believe he was not any ordinary commander. I can’t explain it but he had a certain authority around him--not even Admiral Anderson had that.”
“Really?” asked Jeffery.
“That’s right,” said Jiao. “For a person to display such authority can mean only that he’s, as you said it, way above our pay grade.”
Jeffery nodded and looked out to the gas planet and empty space that somehow looked much more ominous than it had looked before.
William watched as the shuttle left from the cruiser and knew that Jiao would go on and tell Jeffery about her orders, just like he’d said. He’d specifically chosen these two commanders, Jeffery Bainbridge and Jiao Bai, for this mission. He’d watched the two since their graduation and both showed qualities that he could use in the Special Intelligence Center. Now that they’d fought together against the Miccvans and Jiao had informed Jeffery of what she knew, they shared a common experience and it would help them working together if William decided to enlist them.
“Sir?” Udo came to William. “You asked to be informed when Advisor Milton had left.”
“Yes, thank you, Lieutenant,” said William. “Let’s go to my office. Give me full report of the tests.”
Udo was all smiles. “Yes, sir. We are making excellent progress.”