Chapter 1: Orelia
‘It has been an extraordinary year for me, ‘ thought Jason. ‘In a little over fourteen months, I have traveled to another galaxy from Earth. I left all I knew behind except my dogs. A huge battleship fetched me. I have fought pirates; I have acquired a military force of 40 million women and a few men and a substantial battle fleet. We have conquered three planets.
A week ago, a homicidal arch priest nearly killed me. I should not be alive after being shot through the heart and the spine. Yet, here I am going to fight The Mob in the defense of the Empire.’ There was very little that he knew about them. They had attacked the Empire twice previously and had been repulsed. He looked forward to discovering more about them.
Jason relaxed in his medical pod as he was transported back to the battleship. He was still too weak to do anything for himself. Next to the pod stood his three physiotherapists that were accompanying him from the hospital, as well as two of the doctors from the battleship come to escort him back. It was good to get back to the ship, as he felt the pod slide into the medical shuttle and lock in place. He knew that he had a difficult month ahead of him before he would be back to normal. He felt his muscles being stimulated by the pod as it continued working on him, which in turn made him increasingly drowsy, and he dropped off to sleep.
Admiral Peter Kane stood in the command operations room next to the bridge. He looked around the very comfortable room. Here he was in an extraordinary situation on a ship with no Captain but run by Stan the AI who was a pilot and a navigator. No one was in obvious command of the ship other than Jason who would never think of himself as being in command.
He was very impressed with Jason. This was a highly intelligent young man and a formidable telepath, and was a competent martial arts practitioner with impressive powers. Jason had already saved Peter’s family from being hostages, and he would be eternally grateful to Jason and his fleet for that fact.
Over the years, Peter had become bored and stale. Every day was the same. However, this last month was the worst and yet the best month of his life. Papa Zora blackmailed him into stealing then leading his fleet to fetch the clones. He had been forced to help him as he held his wife and son hostage. In many ways, he thought it was lucky that it was him instead of someone else because he diverted them from their common purpose. Papa Zora and the Mob wanted to attack the core planets of the Empire, but he diverted The Mob to attack seven possible industrial planets hoping to spread their forces thinly. He persuaded Papa Zora to use his fleet to betray The Mob and attack their core planets as he now knew the locations of these planets. The Empire could now exact its revenge upon The Mob. He could also enhance his reputation rather than be regarded as a traitor and pariah in the Empire. His wife and son were now safe, and he was no longer vulnerable. His wife was supportive of his proposed actions.
He looked over at his old friend of thousands of years working at a nearby table.
General James Morgan was a fine man and a great friend. The two of them had a purpose again. They enjoyed mentoring the Colonel administrator who was appointed to assume the management of Nirvana. They had both run planets and administered many bases. They both felt more fulfilled than they had for many years. James had felt he had one foot in the grave running multiple planetary storage facilities, but now he was enthusiastically mentoring the clone admirals and generals in the preparations to defend the first planet against The Mob. It would be a difficult task, but one he felt he was ready for.
Peter Kane felt that he had been in the twilight of his career, and he had made way for younger admirals, but that left him with little in place of his own. There was very little hostile activity in the Empire and little to engage his imagination.
He was surprised at how easily Jason led. There was something about him that made him a natural leader regardless of his age or experience. He saw that Jason had outstanding judgment. He thought that judgment was the most important desperately required capacity to have to be a successful general or admiral. He had often in the early stages of his career overrated intelligence. Intelligence learned was essential in researchers and scientists and important in advisors. It was of great help in understanding the issues. However, it did not in any way guarantee that good decisions would be made. Jason also had an instinct or a foreknowledge of what was going to happen. This was clear in many of the stories that he had heard about Jason. Jason could think creatively under pressure. Peter enjoyed the story of Jason using the communications missiles. The mines were a second useful idea. Jason had an unerring instinct for what would be useful. He agreed fully with every acquisition he had made on Fort Sentinel, the fleet supply planet.
Andrea sat at her table with her team. They were considering the options for the defense of Orelia. She saw Peter Kane looking around the room and smiling while looking at his old friend James Morgan. She liked them both very much. They were both distinguished old men who had impressive careers and backgrounds. They were both handsome strong men, sophisticated and intelligent. They were both self-effacing and self-deprecating. They were helpful and easy-going.
She was delighted that both were so well-connected. They both knew the planetary administrator of Orelia, the fleet Admiral Delia McPherson and the General in command of the Marines on the planet and on the planetary moon. The Mob had received seven planetary options as they had requested. Two of them were patently less suitable. The military had no doubt advised that it was better to attack five planets and have reserve forces. Peter had half hoped that they would overextend themselves. The five planets were sufficiently distant from the core planets to buy them time to attack the planets and steal technology. She knew that time was of the essence.
Admiral McPherson had been warned of the impending attack and had two days to prepare. She left thousands of heavy anti-ship missiles and tens of thousands of antimissile missiles in geosynchronous orbit around the planet. Defensive missile and cannon platforms surrounded the planet. The moon was bristling with missile and cannon systems.
McPherson said they had been alerted to The Mob fleet twenty minutes before their arrival. The Mob had, as expected, jumped in launched missiles and jumped out. They left behind planetary attack platforms that were intended to damage and knock out the defensive systems. That took time, and they paid a heavy price. The Mob fleet left to attack behind the moon leaving ten severely damaged ships behind. Missiles had struck them sooner than they had expected. The missiles then struck the four very large attack platforms severely damaging them before they had the opportunity to return fire. The heavy cannon from the moon fired, and the moon launched very large anti-ship missiles. They hit their targets within seconds of each other.
“The enemy fleet jumped to the other side of the moon. They expected it to be undefended. Their scouts would’ve seen nothing. We have been busy on the other side of the moon over many years. We hid missile silos and cannon emplacements very carefully on the far side of the moon. We even have a small base deeply buried. We placed missiles around the moon in orbit. We significantly damaged the attacking fleet. The remaining fleet is still twice the size of our fleet as you can see. The battle AI informs me that they have sustained significant damage to the extent of a 30 percent reduction of their firepower.
They have retreated but are still in the system. I suspect that they are waiting for reinforcements. We are the furthest out from the Empire, so I expect that it will still take six to eight hours for Mob reinforcements to arrive. I am assuming the reserves would have been placed near the middle. I will link you to our battle computer to update your holograms with our sensor and readiness information. I will send you the positions of the missiles along with an updating hologram of our position. The battle computer has the current estimates of their fleet damage ship by ship, and that is on the way to you now,” concluded Admiral McPherson. Andrea waited to see the updates. She evaluated them and decided to take a break.
Andrea thought back over the last eight months. She was only eight months old but six weeks pregnant. She could not believe how much had happened in her short life as a clone. Her original lived a sad life with a husband who was a misery and gave her no peace. Until she met Jason, she was worried that she was destined to live a miserable short life in the service of an evil priest. She now had a future. She was deeply in love with Jason, and she was excited that she was going to have his child. She was happy with her life. She loved being an Admiral, and thrived on the challenge and looked forward to every day. At the end of each day she felt fulfilled, yet she worried about Jason. She believed he was destined to be a pivotal figure in the future of this galaxy. He instinctively and quickly knew the best decisions to make. He sensed what would happen a short time ahead. What she feared most that he would be killed before he reached his full potential.
She also missed his input and thoughts about the impending battle. She decided that she would talk to him and ask him what he would do. She enjoyed his strategic insights. On the one hand, she didn’t want to put pressure on him while he was so fragile, yet on the other she knew he would feel left out if not consulted. So she decided to go and talk to him, she knew he would love to be included.
Jason woke feeling refreshed; the day was strenuous with four sessions of rehabilitation and exercise within his pod. His muscles were no longer aching, and he felt considerably stronger. He could open and close his hands and move his head from side to side. He experimented with his feet. He could feel his toes, and he could move them. He chewed and swallowed food easily.
The pod opened, and he saw Andrea and Linda smiling down at him. On the other side, he saw Celia and Felicia grinning.
“We are just under four hours from the planet Orelia. The first Mob attack failed due to a good defense from the fleet Admiral and the Marine General on the moon. They have retreated, and the defending fleet is intact as are the defense platforms,” said Andrea. She went on to explain what she had been told in depth and showed Jason the current holograms.
“We would be interested in what you would suggest. None of us want to contaminate your ideas with the thoughts that we have had,” said Linda.
“I am impressed with the strategies of the Admiral. I like the idea that she had of leaving missiles in space. She probably only fired a small number of them close to the platforms to give the impression that they originated from the platforms. If she leaves them passively waiting, then antimissile systems will not target them. No doubt you guys have been thinking about mines as well. The first thought that I had was that we do a first pass with a small number of ships. They drop mines in the expected area for the release of assault craft. On second thought, I would reserve that strategy for a bit later. It will give them too much information far too early.
I would look at a conventional attack with one-third of our fleet jumping in on one side of them and the rest of the fleet not visible to them behind the planet and launch missiles. The small fleet hits them with everything but also dumps a load of mines to leave behind them that would head towards the ships. They will slug it out until the missiles get to the Mob fleet. Then they jump and dump mines in orbit over the city where we expect the attack shuttles to be launched. We then wait.
The rationale is as follows: I don’t want them to run, but I want to maximize damage to them. To do this, we must appear to attack first with slightly fewer ships than they have. This encourages them. We want them to believe that this small fleet is the planetary defensive fleet. I would like them to say aha and rub their hands together in glee. I want them to be so happy that they can be easily distracted to the point that they miss the missiles coming from around the planet. Before that attack by our small fleet, we set them up. The bulk of our fleet arrives on the other side of this large planet. They will be invisible to the enemy fleet if we block all communications traffic and hit any scout fighters on that side. Just before the smaller fleet jumps in they launch a full load of missiles around the planet.
The critical success factor is the communications block. We must ensure that we block sensor and/or fighter communication. They must not know we are there. Just before the missiles become visible, the smaller fleet arrives and attacks. They will see the attack by the smaller fleet. Their concentration will be on that battle. They will be more likely to miss the missile attack from around the planet. We could get lucky. Then we jump around the planet and hit them as hard as we possibly can with everything we have before the smaller fleet jumps out to lay mines near the planet. By that time, the mines dropped by the smaller fleet should be among the enemy. But, and this is a big but, we do absolutely everything we can to block communication from them to warn the enemy reserve fleet. Then I would mine the surrounding area. The reserve fleet knows where they are and will arrive nearby. If they see damaged ships, they will investigate. Then the mines can do their job. They will be very angry, and not see any fleet. They will think that both fleets damaged each other.
I suspect that they will then launch their attack on the planet. We will help them have a very difficult time. Before the attack and before we disappear, we also lay a new batch of mines near the planet. I am tempted to suggest that we send our troops to reinforce the ground defenders, but I don’t want to risk them receiving a pounding from above from the enemy ships. We reinforce the ground troops later if necessary. The enemy fleet will try to stay close to the planet to support their landing troops. They should be even more damaged by that time. We let the mines, and missiles do their job. Then we hit them as hard as we can together with the planetary defensive fleet. They will run a difficult gauntlet. The moon defenses and the planetary defenses are intact. Perhaps they will bring along more assault platforms that will make it a bit easier for them, but we can hit those platforms from behind.
Those are my first thoughts and probably my last thoughts prior to the battle. I wish you the best of luck and good hunting. I want to give you all a kiss before battle. Stay safe.”
They quickly made their way to have a quick meal in the canteen. They needed some time away from the operations room.
“Jason is looking a lot better. I’m very pleased to see how much progress he is making. His color has improved, and I can see that he is moving his arms quite well. His Warhammer should be well rested,” said Linda facetiously.
“From what I can see his strategy is to expose us to the lowest risk. The Empire does not think that way; they have had such big populations that people and ships have been expendable. The Empire has fought battles head-to-head. It relies on superior force and slugs it out with the enemy.
However, Jason thinks carefully about the most efficient way of hurting the enemy. Behind most of his strategy is the thought about the importance for human life. He also is very reluctant to damage his precious ships. I like his strategy very much. I don’t know how much of it will play out but there is nothing to lose. I will let McPherson know what we are doing by burst when we get there, and the attack is underway. I don’t want to take the risk of any communications interception. Once we are there communications will be more secure,” said Andrea after a period of contemplation.
They moved to the operations control center and communicated the plan. Andrea commanded a single destroyer to move ahead from the fleet to reconnoiter on the other side of the planet from The Mob fleet. Immediately on arrival, it blocked all communications and launched communications blocking probes, and sensors around the planet and missiles towards the enemy scout fighters that were caught unawares. Jason’s larger fleet arrived and launched large anti-ship missiles around the planet. The smaller fleet engaged the enemy with full loads of missiles and firing all their cannons. They dumped their loads of mines while they continued to fire missiles and cannon. The enemy engaged them as expected, and they continued to fire until the missiles from around the planet began to hit the enemy ships from the other side. They fired their antimissile missiles to knock out as many enemy missiles as was possible. They didn’t want to risk themselves on return.
They jumped to the planet and dropped a further load of mines. The smaller fleet jumped back from the planet as the larger component of the fleet attacked The Mob fleet. The mines began to hit The Mob ships. Too many of them were damaged to break out of the trap and escape. Linda sent boarding pods to the larger ships to capture the senior officers for interrogation. They sent live feeds to Admiral Delia McPherson on her flagship and General Rebecca Cunningham on the moon of the entire action.
“Admiral Phillips; that was an inspired strategy, how much damage did you take?” Delia McPherson asked.
“Thank you, Admiral McPherson, that plan was prepared by Archduke Kargo. He is the master of unusual strategies. We have one frigate out of commission with four seriously injured on board, and a severely damaged destroyer with fifteen injured and two deaths. They are in transit to the hospital ships. The hospital ships were upgraded on Nirvana and are now state-of-the-art facilities. We are shortly going to hide while we wait for the reserves. Here is the suggested plan of attack. Have a look at it and get back to me,” said Andrea with a smile on her face. That was not bad for a battle with a hundred and ten miscellaneous ships from battleships and assault carriers to cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. The surprise attack, the unexpected missiles, and mobile mines made an enormous difference to the outcome of the battle. The small size of the mines fooled the enemy sensors every time.
Linda delegated Celia Ford to brief Jason on the first stage of the battle. Celia returned and quickly spoke to Andrea, Linda, and the staff at their table.
“Jason has had one of his intuitions. He believes that the reserve fleet will move as quickly as they can to be close to the planet. They will then request the original attacking fleet to join them,” said Celia.
“He suggests that we pick up as many of the remaining mines as we can from here and take them to the planet before we hide. He thinks that every mine will make a difference. He thinks that they have changed their mind. He believes that after The Mob fleet went to lick their wounds they suggested that the reserve fleet meet them in their location. This was initially accepted but after consideration was not seen as efficient by the reserve Mob Admiral,” continued Celia.
The boarding shuttles returned with their prisoners. In the previous wars with the Mob, they elected to die rather than surrender. That is unusual thought Andrea. I would like to find out the reason for the change.
Some of the ships collected the mines while others added missiles to the stockpile around the planet. They then moved the fleet behind the sixth planet which was a giant gaseous planet with eleven small moons. There were rings of large rocks around the planet which would further obscure sensors.
The reserve fleet arrived exactly as Jason had predicted and right where he had predicted. The reserve fleet was nearly the size of Jason’s fleet. The invading fleet split with forty ships heading to attack the moon. The moon launched missiles and fired cannon. The enemy fleet towed four large missile and cannon platforms. They were each the size of a cruiser and twice the size of those from the original offensive fleet. It rapidly began to disgorge fighters and ground assault shuttles. Admiral Delia McPherson activated her space-based missiles. Mines exploded next to at least half of the attack shuttles. They began exploding next to the enemy fleet. Antimissile systems defended well against many of the missiles but there were too many for the defender systems. Some of the damaged smaller ships began to head for the surface on suicide runs. The first ground based missiles struck them. Some of the ships broke into large fragments, others continued out of control down to the surface. The rate of mine explosions, particularly on the bigger ships increased. At least, half of the shuttles headed toward the surface weaving to fool the missiles heading their way. There was a steady rate of attrition of shuttles as they faced dense cannon and missile fire from the surface and then ground-based defensive fighters. The shuttles were heavily armed and well armored. Fighters supported the Mob shuttles, and the atmosphere filled with debris from the intense battle. A million enemy troops and their equipment reached the surface. They faced a smaller but well dug in force. The ground force was well prepared for invasion. The fleet above was not in good shape. Missiles and cannon fire halted the attack on the moon. The moon continued to pound on the fleet. The Mob fleet then split its assault between the planetary surface and the moon. Missile and cannon fire relentlessly struck the fleet. Under the weight of the assault, shields failed and more cannon and missiles fire struck the ships. Cannon fire from the ships and missiles did extensive surface damage. They struck defensive positions and created pathways for the attacking enemy troops.
Jason’s fleet and the planetary fleet jumped in above the attackers and launched a very powerful offensive. Andrea sent boarding craft to every large ship. A battleship, cruiser and a destroyer accelerated and managed to break through the attackers and escape. Further attackers attempted to escape and failed as cannon, mines and missiles continued to wreak havoc on the attackers. Andrea would not risk Jason and commanded from behind the fleet. However, she supported the fleet with heavy cannon and missile fire. The battleship had two close calls with missiles that came close. The enemy fleet surrendered. Every attacking ship had sustained some damage.
The ground offensive continued for a further half an hour. They did not believe that the fleet had surrendered and continued to fight. The planetary administrator asked for troops to help. Linda sent in a persuasive force to dissuade The Mob troops from continuing. The Mech Warriors were instrumental in striking fear into the attackers leading to their surrender.
Andrea suggested that Admiral Delia McPherson and General Rebecca Cunningham briefly met with her and her team and Jason before they moved on to the next planet.
They met with Jason, who was in fine form and who congratulated them on their defense. “I was very impressed by the idea of leaving missiles in place. I have never seen that technique used in any simulation, and it is a brilliant idea. Sensors do not pick them up as they are inactive. They were very effective and made a substantial difference to the outcome of this conflict. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to meet you and congratulate you on a brilliant defense. The moon defense is a great concept. I did like the trap that you created with hidden weapons systems on the other side. You well and truly caught them,” said Jason appreciatively.
“We liked the idea of sending missiles around the moon. Those mines are a great idea. It kept your damage and casualties much lower than they would otherwise have been,” said Rebecca Cunningham. She quite obviously liked Jason.
Andrea and Admiral Delia McPherson agreed on the salvage split. Andrea asked to take the most senior officers for interrogation. She transported the remainder to the planet. This was a common procedure. Central command of the Empire paid a substantial fee for the intervention of Jason’s fleet. Salvage was an extra for the defenders. Central command contacted Andrea urgently. The situation was deteriorating. They asked her to move to the defense of Virgil next.