Starcorp 2: Hostile Acquisitions

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CHAPTER 18: Battle Plans

“Have a seat, Commander McCall,” Ryan DeWitt instructed with his usual authoritarian confidence.

Commander Kenneth McCall stepped away from the entrance and walked down the length of a conference table that was situated in the center of the room. He came to a stop at the mid-point of the table and sat down in the chair there. He carried nothing with him. He laid his hands atop the conference table at shoulder width distance from each other. He looked straight across the conference table with a poker face expression. Directly across from Commander McCall, was Ryan DeWitt, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the newly incorporated War-Machine DGP09. Seated with Ryan, on either side, were 8 additional members of the Board.

Commander McCall was an average man with regards to his physical dimensions and features. The only thing about him that someone might call striking was the severe expression he frequently maintained. Among his acquaintances, he was commonly thought of as pompous. This was not an inaccurate characterization. Commander Kenneth McCall was a genius by all measure of intellect, and he was not averse to instructing others on the size of his intellect. He thought little of anyone who did not measure intellectually high by his perception, and he thought of no one as his equal or better in this regard. To say he thought more of himself than everyone else was not an exaggeration. His intellectual keenness notwithstanding, Commander McCall showed no sign of a singularly superior insight or understanding into any science or discipline. For the most part, his exceptional aptitude of mind was limited to an ability to retain large amounts of information and do large calculations quickly.

“Commander McCall, so far, the only thing I can see that makes you a credible consideration for this position is experience, but you’re not alone there,” Ryan commenced with a flat delivery and a poker face. “Your résumé says nothing that gives you any advantage over a dozen other applicants. So, I ask you, why should we give you the job?”

Commander McCall showed no indication that he was intimidated by Ryan’s manner. He held his stare and demeanor as he began to speak his reply.

“Because you’re looking for the best person for the job,” Commander McCall returned in a matter of fact tone of voice. “And I am that person.”

“All the applicants say that,” Director Horner quickly challenged from 3 seats down from Ryan’s right.

“They’re wrong,” Commander McCall countered with a look down the table. “You need an intellect with a superior understanding of space warfare to command your war-machine. My academy credentials along with my experience should put me at the head of your list of applicants.”

The experience that Commander McCall and the Directors were speaking of was his time aboard the WDF02 Basestar Goliath. He served as a subordinate officer to Commander Craig Chaffin during the WDF/UEF War. Commander McCall was not the only member of WDF02’s war-machine that came to DGP09 looking for employment, but he was the only high-ranking officer to do so. No other veteran senior officer of WDF02’s war-machine during that conflict saw the need to offer their services to DGP09. Their contracts with WDF02 was paying them well, it was thought that their services in a DGP/WDF War would be better used defending that contract in view of the odds in WDF02’s favor. There was also the advantage of a new contract with WDF02 adding a substantial addition to the income they had already been given. Commander Kenneth McCall’s application for the position of Commanding Officer of War-Machine DGP09 was evidence of the size of his ambition.

“Everyone on that list surpasses you in scoring in the starfighter combat piloting skills simulator,” Director Jodorowsky sharply disputed from two seats down from Ryan’s left.

“It’s a game,” Commander McCall argued back with a slight glare at Jodorowsky. “For every one of those applicants I can find a dozen kids with higher scores. You don’t want a hot shot pilot commanding your war-machine. The person you want is someone who understands how to wield the might of your war-machine effectively.”

“And that’s you because you’re so much smarter than everyone else?” Ryan queried with a hint of jest in his tone.

“That’s right,” Commander McCall answered without hesitation and with a turn of his head toward Ryan.

Commander McCall and Ryan looked at each other in silence for a moment and then Commander McCall continued.

“Let me tell you what all the other applicants said,” Commander McCall verbalized testily. “They recited the text book battle tactics for space warfare between war-machines that are comprised of basestars, battlestars and starfighters working as an integrated battlegroup. They emphasized a strong starfighter force and as many basestars as you can afford. They advocated battlestars as reinforcement for a weak or deficient starfighter force. And I can tell you right now, Chaffin has read the same text book.”

Commander McCall paused to give weight to his las remark. He glanced across the row of faces in front of him, and then he began to speak again.

“You only have one basestar, and I suspect you can only afford the one,” McCall continued with a trace of smugness in his voice. “The WDF has 2 basestars. And in the time that it will take you to ready the forces that you’ve already purchased, the WDF will have restored their war-machine back to full strength. Going by the text book, WDF02 has already won.”

Once again Commander McCall paused to note the expressions on the faces of his interviewers. He needed only a couple of seconds to become convinced that he had their full attention. Their silence told him that they wanted to hear more, and so he continued.

“And if you do acquire a second basestar, the WDF will likely buy a third basestar,” McCall suggested with an off-the-cuff-inflection. “They have no incentive to meet you in battle with even numbers. With the potential wealth of the Sol System to borrow against and access to the same resources that you have, they won’t have any trouble attracting new investors. And those investors will likely insist on a war-machine larger than yours by half, minimum. Possibly double your size if you give the WDF enough time. They’re going to do everything they can to take the gamble out of this fight. Your situation is simple. You want to maximize your chance of winning while minimizing the size of the debt you will have to absorb if you lose.”

Commander McCall took a couple of seconds to look at the Directors across from him to give emphasis to his last remark. The vestige of a smirk appeared on his face and then he continued with greater insistence.

“Directors, it is time to throw the text book in the trash. Your best chance at winning this war is by using your smaller size to your advantage. The fact that you will be the attacker and not the defender makes this your best option.”

Commander McCall took a prolong pause to see if he had impressed the Directors with his dissection of their situation, which they were. Ryan pondered Commander McCall’s last statement for a couple of seconds and then he began to speak.

“And how do you figure that, Commander McCall?” Ryan questioned from behind a stern expression.

“The defender has to take a stand. You don’t,” Commander McCall returned with finality.

This response was not without thoughtful calculation by Commander McCall. He had done the math on space warfare and the odds for and against winning any battle using dozens of variations of space force sizes, strengths and tactics. Over the next hour, Commander McCall explained the battle tactics he would use against the WDF02 war-machine. At the end of that time, Commander Kenneth McCall was offered the position of Commanding Officer of War-Machine DPG09.

“What can you tell us about Kenneth McCall?” Frank questioned a second after ADM Craig Chaffin walked into the conference room.

Seated along the outer side of a long U-shaped table were the 19 members of the WDF02 Board of Directors. Frank was seated at the center-bottom end of the U. All eyes focused on ADM Chaffin from the moment he entered the room. ADM Chaffin paused for a moment to note their looks and Frank’s question, and then he sat down at the desk and chair situated just inside the open end of the U.

“He’s an arrogant prick,” ADM Chaffin answered nonchalantly.

“That arrogant prick is now the commanding officer of War-Machine DGP09,” Frank countered without hesitation.

ADM Chaffin arrived at BX01 seven hours earlier. He time-jumped from the Sol System specifically for this meeting. The subject matter came as no surprise. The Admiral had been in continuous video messaging contact with the board since his promotion to Admiral in-charge of War-Machine WDF02. The topics in the past involved the rearmament of the war-machine and news on the disposition of the DPG09 war-machine. Kenneth McCall’s employment as the Commanding Admiral of the DPG09 war-machine had already reached ADM Chaffin in the Sol System, and the trip to BX01 provided him with plenty of time to preselect verbiage to use in response to their questions on his appointment.

“He’s a stupid, arrogant prick,” Craig spoke in response to Frank’s last remark.

“The DGP09 just put that stupid prick in-charge of their war-machine,” Director Purell asserted to Craig. “So, we have to wonder what they know that we don’t.”

“Kenneth McCall is a highly intelligent person,” Craig returned after a moment of thought. “But he’s no magician,” he continued to speak with soft insistence. “DGP doesn’t have the numbers. They’re only going to have half as many starfighters as us and they only have one basestar. I wouldn’t be surprised if the DGP backed out of this whole idea.”

“It’s too late for that,” Director Brenda Marinelli challenged with a look of disbelief. “DGP has racked up debts putting their war-machine together. If they back out now, they’ve got nothing but a large bill to pay.”

“When they lose, that bill is going to be a lot larger,” Craig spoke dismissively. “They’re just wasting their money.”

“I can’t say that your confidence is easing my concerns, Admiral Chaffin,” Director Darin Geller pondered out with a slight shake of his head. “Board of Directors are not in the habit of making bad gambles. They have to think they can win this war, and this indifferent attitude of yours has me worried about your fitness for the position that you hold.”

Craig’s casual demeanor fell away in response to this rebuke. His first thought was to wonder if the Directors had found someone else to command the WDF02 war-machine. He hesitated to speak while he searched the faces of the Directors for evidence that they were about to replace him. Shortly into his consideration, Frank began speaking.

“Admiral Chaffin,” Frank called out to get his attention. “What are your plans for dealing with this challenge to our contracts with the Sol System Union?”

Craig focused his attention onto Frank and paused to consider the question. A couple of seconds into his thought, he began to speak with a gruffness in his voice.

“Directors, my plan is simple, engage and destroy. DGP must come to me. I don’t have to do anything to find them. They are going to come to us. The constraints that the Starcorp League Supreme Court put on DGP limits their military action to the Sol System Union Government, any government forces defending it and any agent that the Sol System Union employs to act in its defense with armed resistance. DGP cannot engage in any act of violence against the civilian population or none military targets. Their only recourse is to seize the capital, which is on Earth. And the only way they can do that is by going through me.”

“You make it sound simple,” Frank returned with a suspicious inflection.

“We have a numerical advantage, Mr. Chairman” Craig insisted in the same gruff tone. “And as long as you Directors maintain that advantage, then we are almost certain to win any military engagement with War-Machine DGP09.”

For several seconds the Directors had nothing to say in response to this statement. They looked among themselves as they considered each other’s expressions.

“We came to that consensus early on,” Director Ronald Dryer spoke up with a nod of his head. “But now that DGP09 doesn’t appear to be in the market for a second basestar, we have to wonder if we missed something.”

“They can’t afford a second basestar,” Craig answered with a quick retort. “That’s what is happening. I still think they may back out of this venture.”

“If they’re backing out, then why are they buying up starcruisers and converting them into battlestars?” Director Karrenbauer questioned with a stone face stare.

Director Karrenbauer was speaking of reports that DPG09 had purchased more than a dozen star-cruisers over the past 6 months and was reconstructing them into battlestars. Star-cruisers were the equivalent of an ocean-liner on Earth. Unlike cargo carrying spaceships, the primary purpose of a star-cruiser was the conveyance of large numbers of people across interstellar distances in comfort. Star-cruisers were virtually nonexistent before the implementation of star-drive technology. Before the advent of interstellar travel, spaceships serviced all the long-distance transportation needs within the Sol System. Spaceships accommodated dozens of passengers in more comfort than a spaceplane. Star-cruisers accommodated hundreds of passengers in a comfort that was greater than a spaceship. The smaller starcruisers boasted a maximum occupancy of little more than 300 people, and the largest were capable of more than 800. Starcruisers were comparable to battlestars in size and in capabilities. The only things lacking were armor and armaments.

“Because 50 battlestars are cheaper than 1 basestar,” Craig returned to Director Karrenbauer’s question with a wave of his hand. “It’s a desperate measure. They’re trying to bridge the gap between the size of our war-machine and there’s.”

“You think they’re trying to even the odds on the cheap?” Director Sanjay Kazem questioned with an inflection of intrigue.

“It’s the only thing they can do,” Craig answered as though he was speaking the obvious.

“Can they do that?” Frank asked from behind a concerned stare.

“It would take 100 battlestars, and they don’t have nearly that many,” Craig returned with an inflection of rebuff. “There are only 37 starcruisers in the Starcorp League and no battlestars. We don’t make them because everybody knows that it’s better to construct one basestar rather than 100 battlestars.”

Craig paused to give weight to his last remark, and then he began to speak his final remark on the question with a definitive intonation.

“Battlestars are just screening vessels—something for a starfighter to fight through before taking on the basestar. Starfighters are the hunter/killers of space, and basestars are the motherships of starfighters—you kill the basestar, you kill starfighters. That’s all you need to do win a space battle.”

Craig’s words reflected the accepted position within the starcorp community. Battlestars were thought to be screening vessels for basestars and stand-alone gunships for small police actions. It was universally accepted that basestars were too large for small conflicts. The weaponry built into a basestar along with the 500 starfighters in its docking bay made it a massive over kill for anything less than full scale space warfare. On the other hand, battlestars, with their small compliment of starfighters, a dozen or less, were considered ideal for commerce raiding, pirating or for rebuffing the actions of tiny militant factions. The absence of battlestars within the starcorps until now was testimony to the fact that all these events had yet to occur within the community.

The production of battlestars was an Earth knee-jerk response to the loses they endured in the RG01/UFP war. After the starcorps fled the Sol System, basestars and starfighters were beyond the remaining civilizations’ financial and technological capability. And it was anticipated that this condition would be in place through the near future. Battlestars were not a part of this failing. The construction of a battlestar was not unlike constructing a spaceship. The big differences were in battlestars’ greater size and in its extensive armor and armament. So great was the UEF’s fear of a return of the starcorps, they constructed battlestars near to the exclusion of all other projects sitting in wait in the Sol System.

From the perspective of the starcorps, the relative value of battlestars was based on little more than a general perception. There was no programming to explore the capabilities of a battlestar in a simulator. Battlestars were just a theoretical concept when the first war-machine was built. In the RG01/UFP War that freed the starcorps from the threat of Earth control, constructing a battlestar was considered an unnecessary expense as well as a financial risk. No one could explain the use or the need for a battlestar. Earth’s United Front Pact Space Force had no battlestars and they had no starfighters. Before the WDF02/UEF War, the addition of battlestars was considered and rejected by WDF02 Commanding Officer, ADM Nathan Lazaro. The reason for the rejection was the time and expense to manufacture them and because the UEF had no starfighters to threaten his basestars. The thinking in the starcorp military community was that a battlestar’s only use in a full-scale space war was to defend the basestars from starfighters. Their offensive capability was deemed insignificant when compared to starfighters. An early 21st Century military parallel might look like a heavily armed and armored tank trying to fight off a team of light attack helicopters. Since the UEF had no starfighters, the expense of manufacturing a battlestar was deemed unwarranted.

“But DGP09 has a large force of starfighters,” Frank advised hesitantly. “Don’t you think we should have some battlestars?”

“It’s not large enough,” Craig countered. “We have a 2 to 1 advantage in starfighters and in basestars. That’s more than enough to win this fight.”

“I’d rather not take any chances,” Frank quickly disagreed.

The other Directors were silent. None of them knew what side to take in this discussion, and all were eager to hear both positions.

“There’s not enough time to build and integrate battlestars into the war-machine,” Craig explained with an inflection of dismay.

“The Sol System Union has battlestars,” Frank retorted with a sharp delivery.

Craig understood the meaning in this statement without giving it any thought. This suggestion was anticipated, and the options for doing it had already been considered by him.

“They don’t have star-drives,” Craig explained with a dismissive nod of his head.

“So, we install them with star-drives,” Frank argued back.

“Then we have to buy the battlestars,” Craig replied in a tone that was akin to an adult giving instructions to 5-year-old child.

“Why?” Frank asked with an astonished inflection.

Craig was bored with this subject from the moment it started. He had considered the option of adding battlestars to his command, and he had already considered the ways for doing it. Answering the questions of the Board of Directors was just a revisit of thoughts he entertained numerous times in the past. What made this revisit more boring was the fact that he did not want the battlestars, and this disposition was reflected by the exasperation he put into his answer to Frank’s question.

“Because of the Starcorp League mandate that we not update the Sol System with starcorp technology, especially military technology.

Frank paused to recall this Starcorp League mandate. The other Directors murmured their recollections of this mandate.

“Okay, how much are we talking about?” Frank questioned after a brief thought.

“One battlestar would be of no value and 10 would be a significant expense,” Craig explained with a nod that said he disagreed with where this was going. “Directors,” he continued with an intonation of insistence in his voice. “We can get the battlestars, but I promise you, they’re not necessary. That money would be better spent upgrading our basestars with robotic docking racks. That could give me an additional 1,000 spacefighters, assuming the Board’s willingness to purchase them,” he continued glibly. “If you want to give me something, give me that,” Craig finished with finality.

The latter part of Craig’s response captured the intrigue and the imagination of the Directors. Everyone there knew about the new robotic docking rack that was being advertised by Starcorp JJL02 and ADM Nathan Lazaro, a co-developer and investor in the product. This new docking rack promised to exploit the unused space in the docking bay of basestars to hold and maintain twice as many starfighters.

Free floating space made up more then half of the room in the docking bays of all basestars constructed to this date. The empty space was used by vehicles to maneuver and cluster into formations inside the basestar. The individual docking stalls were fixed inside a latticework that was built into the ceiling and opposite to the large docking bay doors in the underside of the basestar. The design advantage of the robotic docking rack was its ability to fill up 80% of the space in the bay with docking stalls. Detractors argued that the system would slow down the launch and retrieval of large numbers of starfighters and that it would stop the activity completely when the robotic docking rack became damaged during a battle. These arguments that prevented the installation of the robotic docking rack when Colossus and Goliath were constructed. These detractions also spurred research and development that produced ways to speed up launches and retrievals and ways to keep it operating around catastrophic damage to any area of the rack. The advancements made the robotic docking rack more attractive, but it did not stop the criticisms.

“I like it!”

Director Kazem’s resounding endorsement took everyone by surprise. All eyes turned in his direction.

“That’s what we should do,” Director Kazem continued with verve. “That would give us a four to one advantage in starfighters.”

“That’s an overwhelming advantage over DPG,” Director Ventura spoke to himself as much as he was speaking to everyone else.

“I agree,” Director Felton affirmed in a stout voice. “I think it’s the way to go.”

Everyone but Frank was displaying their approval in their expressions. Craig was nearly gleaming with pride over his accomplishment.

“So, we do them both,” Frank declared as he studied the other board members for signs of approval or the opposite.

“I don’t think we need to do both,” Director Samuel Hamada suggested with a tentative delivery.

“It’s a waste of money,” Director Kazem declared decidedly. “We’ve already increased our investment in this venture by half. Buying 10 or more battlestars on top of upgrading Colossus and Goliath and purchasing 1,000 more starfighters and hiring the pilots to fly them is an extravagance.”

“But over the long run, it’s an extravagance that we can afford,” Frank returned with a hint of desperation in his voice.

“I disagree,” Director Kazem disputed. “Who’s to say there won’t be future challenges to our contract with the Sol System Union.”

“Director Kazem is right,” Director Joel Bobrov spoke up without hesitation. “There’s nothing to stop the Tellurian Resistance from doing this a second and a third time.”

Frank understood the thinking behind Director Bobrov and Director Kazem’s words. The Sol System Union had no incentive to renegotiate their contract with WDF02 or enter into an additional contract. It was understood by them both that WDF02 had to defend the Sol System Union Government because of the contracts they already had. If DGP09 forced the Sol System Union out of power, all those contracts would disappear.

“I say we do the basestar upgrades, buy the additional starfighters and kick the battlestars down the road when we can afford to gamble.

Director Kazem’s suggestion resonated with all the Board members except for Frank. Murmurs of agreement and nods of heads could be heard and seen around the table. Frank took notice of this with a look up and down both sides of the table.

“I think we should vote on it,” Director Marinelli urged as she leaned forward over the table to speak.

Frank could see that further discussion on the subject would accomplish nothing. He was not convinced that he was right, and Director Kazem was wrong or vice versa. He did know that he was worried about this DPG09 challenge, and this anxiety was causing him to be extra cautious. His recognition of this condition brought him to the decision that he needed to let the vote happen and live with result. It took 30 seconds for the WDF02 Board of Directors to agree to make the upgrades to the basestars, buy the additional starfighters, hire more pilots to fly them and to take a pass on purchasing battlestars at this time. Frank was the only board member to not vote yes to this plan.

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