Starcorp 2: Hostile Acquisitions

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CHAPTER 20: Prepare to do Battle

“Admiral, we are in Sol System Outer Orbit, just beyond the track of Neptune,” Captain Raymond Smith reported from his escape pod. “All spaceships of the fleet have reported in and are converging on our location. ETA on formation reset is 2.3 hours. Speed is .47 LS. No com chatter detected in the near or distant expanse. Shall I extend sensors, Admiral?”

“Set sensors at combat distance,” ADM Kenneth McCall returned casually. “Hold speed and trajectory. Report back when all spaceships are in formation.”

War-Machine DPG09 jumped into Sol System space less than a minute before this exchange. The entire force consisted of the Basestar Orion, 867 starfighters and 47 battlestars. Nearly three years had passed since the Supreme Court of the Starcorp League ruled that the Tellurian Resistance was within its rights to challenge the dominion of the Sol System Union. The Sol System inhabitants were, by this time, just beginning to acclimate to their existence under this new government. The legalities and confusion that came with changes in the occupants and duties of dozens of government offices on Earth were mostly settled. A new entrepreneurial spirit was blooming now that the yolk of the ruling party under the United Earth Federation Government was gone.

To this date, little had been done to advance the industrialization of the Sol System beyond where it was when the WDF02 took military control of the star system. Prior to that, the UEF had setback Earth’s development of the Sol System with its preparations for war with the WDF02. After the war, the Sol System Union spent much of the next three years detangling and reorganizing Earth’s government, industry and financial sectors. Despite this period of adjustment, it was not an unfruitful time for Starcorp WDF02. Some commerce was taking place between the Sol System Union and the Starcorp League, and this was growing. The influx of Earthers eager to migrate into the starcorps began almost immediately. As the middleman between the Sol System Union and the Starcorp at large, the WDF02 profited from these transactions. However, the greatest wealth of income was expected to occur when the industrial might of the Sol System started living up to its potential. For the Sol System Union and WDF02, the invasion of DPG09 was a threat to this bounty.

“All spaceships are in position, Admiral,” Captain Smith called out from his escape pod and out across the space capsule.

ADM McCall spent the last two and a quarter hour tweaking the message he wanted to deliver. He had nothing else to do, and it was his habit to write and rewrite manuscripts up until the moment he submitted them or until something more pressing lured him away. In this instance he had nothing to do but wait for Captain Smith’s report. After hearing that his war-machine had come together, ADM McCall turned his attention to the monitors that were displaying the disposition of his command.

“Open a broadband RF, un-coded,” ADM McCall called out.

The officer in-charge of monitoring communications originating from outside the Orion and controlling transmissions originating from within quickly acted on the command. The computer terminal inside ADM McCall’s pod reported that an open radio channel had been activated in his pod. ADM McCall took a prolonged pause. He knew that his next act would set into motion something that he and his command might not survive. At the end of his pause, he took a deep breath, exhaled and began to speak in a confident voice.

“This is Admiral Kenneth McCall, the commanding officer of War-Machine DPG09. My present location is Sol System Space just beyond the track of Neptune. I am speaking to the governing officers of the Sol System Union and all armed forces under their control. I order you to surrender dominion of the Sol System to the leaders of the Tellurian Resistance and to me under pain of physical harm or death if you do not comply. In keeping with Starcorp League practice, DPG09 will make no arrests and will make no attempt at redress for past deeds. In addition, all requests for sanctuary and asylum will be given hearings and adjudicated on a case by case basis. These provisions will be true if and whenever the Sol System Union surrenders. This message will repeat hourly for the duration of one Earth cycle; armed conflict will start at any time after that. This is Admiral Kenneth McCall, signing out.”

After shutting down the transmission, ADM McCall turned his attention to his command. He knew that any engagement with WDF02 was several days and possibly more than a week away. A reply to his ultimatum was a minimum of eight hours away and far more likely to be twice that if he got one at all. With this knowledge, ADM McCall announced the end of General Quarters and reopened the habitat rings. After that, he retired to his quarters in Orion’s habitat ring and settled in for the wait.

The DPG09 war-machine was on a trajectory that would cause it to have a narrow oval orbit around the sun. Twelve hours down this trajectory, the DPG09 Fleet was beneath Neptune’s solar orbit and moving deeper into the system. The fleet was still waiting for a reply when ADM McCall awoke from a five-hour sleep. He was not surprised by the report. In his mind, there was always a 50/50 chance that he would not get an immediate response. In ADM McCall’s mind, the silence meant that WDF02 would probably not respond until they were in position to engage with them. He suspected they might not want to broadcast their position. This thinking was not limited to ADM McCall. The officers and crew of the entire fleet were of the belief that WDF02 was coming, and that their appearance and their reply were being coordinated to happen at the same time. When and where this would be was guess work for the crew. Without a visual fix on the location of the WDF02 War-Machine, they could not speculate on an arrival time. A visual fix on WDF02 would give them a way of knowing that the war-machine had generated a time-jump bubble.

By staying silent, ADM McCall and his command had no specific radio signal to triangulate. Without that information, they had too much space to examine. However, the plethora of radio signals emanating out from the inner solar system did give them much to listen to, and much of that data was encrypted. Deciphering the encrypted transmissions would take too long to be of any value, and so they were ignored. It was also understood that the WDF02 War-Machine was likely using lasers to communicate with each other. Radio waves would have given them a precise area of the black of space to visually examine. Lasers made it possible for multiple spaceships to have secure point-to-point communications. From DPG09′s perspective, the WDF02 War-Machine was a microscopic speck of reflective material afloat in an ocean of black sprinkled with billions of stars so distant that they look like needle holes of light in the fabric of space. Finding the WDF02 war-machine in all of that was an impossible task.

Currently, there was no great advantage to hiding in the black of space. ADM McCall took this to be a ploy. Keeping their location hidden until the last moment had to be an effort to rattle the men and women under his command, and in this it was successful. As time went on, the officers and crew of the fleet grew more anxious. Two days into their wait, the personnel of the fleet began to move about like zombies. They had little to say to each other. The wait filled their minds with wonderings about when the engagement would happen and how it would turn out. To distract the officers and crew of his fleet from these thoughts, ADM McCall began running battle-station drills and formation maneuver exercises.

Most of the maneuver exercises involved the use of battlestars to rearm starfighters. ADM McCall put a high priority on running these maneuvers as quickly as possible. All the battlestars in the DPG09 Fleet carried starfighters externally. The number of starfighters they could carry varied between six and ten. When a starfighter was attached to one of their docking stations, battlestars had the capability to fully rearm and partially repair it. Both acts were performed by maintenance bots under the control of crew members secured inside one of the battlestar’s space capsules. Repetitive exercises of docking, reloading and launching was crucial to the development of speed and efficiency, but it was barely needed by this time. Several months earlier, ADM McCall had sharpened this capability within his crews to its best speed. Keeping his crews busy for the duration of their wait was the new priority.

Seventeen days after ADM McCall’s ultimatum, the DPG09 War-Machine had nothing that resembled a reply. Radio crosstalk and encoded transmissions were plentiful, but an open transmission directed at them had yet to occur. On the 18th day, a new wave of energy was detected by sensors throughout the fleet.

“Sensors have detected an energy burst,” the command capsule’s senior officer reported in a huff through his com-link. “The energy wave is weak; the point of origin is far outside of our sensor field, but the signature is a match for a time-jump burst. We’re visually scanning the center of the burst now.”

ADM McCall needed to hear no more than that. He expected the energy burst from a time-jump event to announce the coming of the WDF02 War-Machine. He also anticipated that the enemy space force would re-enter real-space at a distance that was far enough to prevent them from jumping inside their sensor field.

“Call to general quarters, all spaceships,” ADM McCall commanded into his com-link.

An instant after giving this command, ADM McCall disconnected his com-link connection and began changing his attire from dress uniform to space capsule jumpsuit. Twenty minutes later he was floating through the hatchway of his command capsule.

“Report!” ADM McCall commanded as he made his way to his escape pod.

“All fleet spaceships are transitioning to general quarters,” Captain Smith reported from his escape pod. “Scans have detected a single spaceship at the center of the energy burst. The type and size of the spaceship is unknown, but it’s on a trajectory that will intercept us in 11-hours and 22-minutes.”

ADM McCall did not hear anything that he was not expecting. It took 45-minutes, on average, for the crew of Basestar Orion to change their attire, secure the habitat ring and seal themselves into their space capsules. It took the battlestars eighteen-minutes less, on average, to do the same thing. All the spaceships of the DPG09 Fleet were still well within these time frames, and ADM McCall knew this before he asked for the report. The information that he did not know was the type and size of the spaceship at the center of the energy burst and its trajectory. The fact that it was on a trajectory that would intercept them was news he anticipated.

“How fast are they going?” ADM McCall snapped back at Captain Smith.

“Zero point eight-zero LS, give or take three-hundredths,” Captain Smith returned without hesitation.

ADM McCall took this report while holding a poker face stare at the monitor that was imaging the area of space where the mystery spaceship was said to be. All he could see of it was a glint of light reflecting off a speck in space.

“Report back to me when the fleet is at general quarters,” ADM McCall instructed Captain Smith in a stern voice.

ADM McCall went silent as he continued to stare at the black of space on the main monitor. He had been staring about five minutes when the communication officer called out.

“Admiral, I’m getting a video transmission. It’s from the Basestar Colossus.”

“Play it,” ADM McCall instructed without a thought. “Put it on the big monitor.”

The communication officer tapped a few touch screen buttons on his personal monitor and activated the video message on to the main monitor. All eyes looked up to a still image of ADM Craig Chaffin’s head in the center of the main monitor. After a few seconds, the image went into motion and ADM Chaffin’s words began to resound out of the speakers.

“I am Admiral Chaffin, commanding officer of the WDF02 War-Machine, speaking to the officers and crews of War-Machine DPG09. Your presence in the Sol System has been deemed an act of war by my employers. Per their instructions, I am duty bound to capture or destroy you.”

ADM Chaffin paused behind his last remark to give it weight.

“I order you to surrender yourselves, and all spacecrafts and weaponry under your control. If you attempt to flee, you will be pursued; if you fight, we will use lethal force to subdue you.”

Once again, ADM Chaffin paused to give weight to his words.

“This offer to surrender may be redeemed at any time. No charges will be leveled against any officer or crewmember of DPG09 for legitimate military actions as defined by the Geneva Conventions, and all will be freed at the end of hostilities.”

To give weight to this statement, ADM McCall paused again.

“This offer has no influence on our plans to prosecute this war. We will engage at our earliest convenience. This is Admiral Chaffin signing off.”

The image of ADM Chaffin remained frozen for several seconds, and then it was replaced by a view of the black of space outside of the Orion. A silence filled the space capsule. All of ADM McCall’s command capsule officers waited for him to give an order. ADM McCall took a moment to take in the magnitude of what he was about to do, and then he turned his attention toward Captain Smith.

“What is the status of the fleet?” ADM McCall queried in a soft voice.

Captain Smith looked down at the personal monitor in his escape pod to note the status of all spaceships in the fleet. Their overlapping sensor fields was the connection that made this communication network possible.

“All spaceships have reported in at general quarters,” Captain Smith returned in a voice that was just loud enough to be heard by ADM McCall without the intercom connection.

The space capsule was quiet with anxiousness for ADM McCall’s next words. Despite this silence, he gave no thought to his command capsule crew. ADM McCall took a deep breath, initiated a fleet wide intercom connection and began to speak.

“This is Admiral McCall, make preparations for a time-jump.”

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