The Battlesphere 'Thor' was in geosynchronous orbit around the planet Durbin. It was delivering the 6th infantry division, for extended deployment. Battalion Commander LTC Daniel C. Sharpton was getting ready to board the shuttle taking his company (HHC 1st Bn. 6th Inf. Div.) down to the surface and the disembarkation point.
His Bn. Sergeant Major had assured him the men were all onboard. His XO had informed him that the rest of the Bn. was similarly ready for departure from the 'Thor'. He looked around the huge shuttle bay, and was still amazed at the size of this ship. The emperor never stinted with his troops.
Daniel was the last man into the shuttle. He would be the first one out when it grounded. That was the way he was. If it had been a war situation, his XO and SGM would not have let him do this.
General ranks are as follows: BG. is brigadier general, 1 star. MG. is major general, 2 stars. LTG is lieutenant general, 3 stars. General is 4 stars. All are referred to as General. The ranks denote specific positions held within their military.
Other officers are: Second lieutenant is 2Lt. (or 2LT), First lieutenant is 1Lt. (or 1LT, or LT), Captain is Capt (or CPT), Major is Maj (or MAJ), Lieutenant Colonel is LtC (or LTC), and Colonel is Col (or COL).
The officer who is 'second in command', is usually referred to as 'XO', regardless of his/her actual rank.
For the enlisteds: CPL is corporal, Sgt is sergeant, SSgt is Staff Sergeant, SFC is Sergeant First Class, MSG is master sergeant, SGM is sergeant major (highest ranked enlisted man)
Two hours later, the rest of the division was down. The Commanding General of the 6th Infantry Division, Major General Anthony Wallace, was already holding an 'all officers' call for officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and above.
"Hey, DC!" LTC Frank Tilman (Battalion Commander of the 2nd Bn., 6th Inf.) said, as Daniel entered the theater.
Daniel had been called 'DC' by his friends since he was a child; and by those of equal rank and above, since he joined the army.
"Hey, Frank. Any idea what the old man is going to brief us on? I would have thought it a bit early for this kind of call," Daniel said to his friend.
"Nope. I was going to ask you. Damn, now I have to sit like a clueless civvie." ('Civvie', 'CV', and any derivative, is the term the military uses to refer to civilians.)
Daniel laughed, grabbed a cup of coffee, and went to the table to register his presence with Division. He pulled a flat card out of his breast pocket, and passed it in front of a scanner sitting on a nearby table. A small electronic chirp acknowledged that his presence was recorded.
Daniel and Frank, basically shot the shit for the next ten minutes, until an announcement to 'find seats' was made. Everyone placed their mugs or other containers on the tables, and went to find chairs.
A voice roared out, "On your feet!"
Everyone who was in the theater sprang to rigid attention, as the Commanding General walked briskly to the podium at the center of the stage.
"Be seated," the General said.
They all sat and waited for the Commanding Officer to tell them what was going on.
"As you all may have noticed, the schedule for getting the 6th to make planet-fall was sped up quit a bit," General Wallace said.
There was a chuckle from the gathered officers. That had definitely been the topic of conversation in many orderly rooms.
"The HMS Thor will be breaking orbit, at anytime now. Supply ships will be dropping off ammunition and other supplies, for an extended deployment. The political situation here on Durbin is such that his majesty, and the general staff, have decided that a show of force (other than a few ships floating by in space) is needed here," the general paused for more chuckles.
"The reason Durbin is important, is that a certain small plant grows here. It grows on very few planets, indeed. It is instrumental in making the longevity drugs that are now being commonly used throughout the civilized galaxy. During the recent war, which His Majesty ended so abruptly a couple of years ago, this planet was hit by the aliens. Its defenses were stripped for the fight against said same aliens.
"This planet has resented that attack, which they blame on the Emperor and the Navy. It is unfortunate, but there it is. A movement has started on this planet to withdraw from the Empire. The Emperor frowns on planets (especially ones that are contributing to the imperial coffers so well) leaving the Empire.
"While it is theoretically possible for a planet to leave the Empire, it has never before been done; and the Emperor does not want a precedent started here. He has bent over backwards in order to smooth ruffled feathers, here.
"Our job is to show the people of Durbin that the Empire has not forgotten them, nor is the Empire just an entity sucking money from their pockets. We will show the flag, and we will be training here with the fledgling Durbin military. That sums up the political problem.
"Now, as to why the Thor is breaking orbit, and why our deployment was accelerated. The recent war has caused a number of political problems in other parts of the galaxy. One of our main concerns is Earth, and her stability.
"Since the outbreak of the war, Earth has been gearing up on war materials and shows no signs of stopping, or even slowing down. Not even with the war's end has Earth ceased from its building of implements of war. Our allies are nervous about them, as they are closer to Earth than we are. So, we are sending a major portion of the Navy, to augment two of our allies. That should give Earth pause to rethink its position. That said, let's talk about our deployment, here..."
Emperor Richard Newcastle was giving his two-year-old son a piggyback ride. The crown prince was laughing happily, as his father bounced around the suite that was the Emperor's aboard the Battlesphere Rising Dragon.
Richard Newcastle had finally decided it was time to take his wife and son to New Haven, and have symbionts introduced into their bodies. His son, Richard Preston Newcastle was now old enough to handle the process.
Richard sighed. He swung his son from off of his shoulders, and went towards his bedroom. His wife was feeding their daughter. Alicia Vonda Newcastle was the newest member of the royal family, and a Princess of the Empire.
Richard smiled at the sight of his wife and daughter together on the bed. His daughter was nuzzling at his wife's breast, greedily feeding. The empress of 137 worlds winced as her royal daughter bit and pulled too hard.
Richard felt his wife mentally tell their youngest offspring to slow down, and be more gentle. It was more an emotional message than a verbal one, but the tiny princess paused. She seemed to listen to her mother, then went back to the important task of feeding.
"They are more instinct at this age, Vonda," Richard told his wife.
"I know, but with this ability to commune between minds, we should be able to instruct her much earlier. Besides, I swear she bites on purpose!" Vonda said with a yelp, as the princess once more bit down on her mother's nipple.
Three hours later, the Dragon Rising achieved orbit around New Haven. This was the Emperor's first time back since he had left, two years ago. It was his family's first ever visit. The people of New Haven were ecstatic at having the royal family to visit them.
A reception was thrown for Richard and his family that evening. Everyone who could get in, showed up. The local news feeds showed constant streams of video of the empress and the children.
For hundreds of years, these people had only heard of the Empress, and the Emperor's oldest child. Now, for the first time, they were seeing the royal family together. Most importantly, they were seeing them 'in person', on New Haven.
Four men, and two women were gathered in a secure room, deep under the Terran Senate building on Earth. These were the most important movers and shakers in the Terran Federation.
"This room is sealed?" Harold Greenstreet, President of the Terran Federation asked.
"Yes. This room is now independent. Nothing can penetrate the shielding. 'Sweep' says the room is clear of all electronic devices," Vanessa Hollingsworth, Chief of Intelligence responded.
"Excellent. Has their been any success in trying to penetrate the Newcastle Empire's naval yards?"
"No. Since the Emperor came back from wherever he got those larger battlespheres of his; every spy we had in place, has been exposed, arrested, and/or deported. It's not just us, either. My contacts in other governments tell me they lost their spies, also," Vanessa responded sourly.
"How close are we to duplicating the new technology our admiral Gordon saw being used? I know we got excellent sensor readings of the battles those huge ships took part in," Eric Spitner, finance minister asked.
"We have been improving our gravity compensators somewhat. It's nothing like what the Empire can do, but it should give us an edge on everyone else. We still have no idea what those beams were that they used to take out the aliens.
"Nor do we have the remotest idea of how to even begin to copy the force fields that his ships showed. There is a whole list, pages long, of what we could use from their technological base, but we no longer have access," David Abernathy, Science minister responded in a wistful voice.
Harold Greenstreet rapped on the conference table.
"Enough of that. We have what we have, and we will make do with it. The Terran Federation is still the largest political body in known space. It is time to bring some of our recalcitrant children back into the fold," Harold said bitingly.
"Another side effect of the Empire's new technology, is that they are the brunt of much dissatisfaction and suspicion from neighboring governments. Those governments fear that the Empire will now annex them or conquer them," Vanessa replied.
"Well, that's something. With everyone watching the Empire so hard, they have mostly missed our continuing build up of war materials, and ships, and crews to man them," Nigel Rains, minister of the armed forces retorted.
"What is the media doing to divert attention from us, and onto other subjects," Harold asked his propaganda minister.
Paula Bickerson took a breath and said, "We have leaked several items to the I.N.S. (Interstellar News Service) about questionable actions taken by both the Empire and the Caliphate, during and after the war.
"We have also pointed them towards the rising prosperity that this bout of building is doing for us. Of course, what they don't know is WHY we are experiencing this prosperity, but it is being played for all it's worth," Paula said with a slight smile.
LTC Daniel Sharpton was inspecting his companies, one at a time. They were spread out over a twenty-kilometer line. It was this line, which was his battalion's responsibility to hold, during this exercise.
He was approaching C-o-C's area of responsibility. He was always impressed with the captain of this company. She was tricky, and always went that extra mile to accomplish her mission.
Captain Melinda Jackson was a short woman and very, very energetic. Daniel was always a bit amused, but understanding of her attitude. It was an attitude of a small person trying to make big tracks, in a world much larger than they were. She did it well, with a certain flair and class.
Daniel approached C companies toc (toc = tactical operations center). All units in the military from company level and up ran a toc, in the field). He returned Melinda's salute and asked for a SitRep (SitRep = a situation report).
"Sir, Company C has deployed to its assigned area of responsibility. In addition, we dug two fall-back positions, and have set hindering charges throughout the area," she said from the position of 'parade rest'.
"Relax, Melinda. Let's go look your line over, and then we'll check those positions," Daniel said, and off they went at a brisk walk.
Terran Federation Rear Admiral Peter Lindel was sitting on the battle bridge of the TFNS Aslan. It was a battleship and the flagship of Task Force TF 81. There were forty combat ships, 15 troop transports, and six giant Galaxymaster cargo ships in the task force.
For the past three weeks, they had been driving fast and hard into Caliphate space. The TF 75 had already accomplished its task, and was now acting as a guard on the worlds captured. TF 81 was doing something a little more dangerous. They had been pinching off a small triangle of Caliphate space, which contained two sides of a triangle. The third part of the triangle was going to be the planet Durbin, and it was in Empire space.
The last intelligence report, said that the people of Durbin were dissatisfied with the Empire. Now was an ideal time to feel them out with a display of power and a small invasion. It was the opinion of intelligence that the people of Durbin would put forth nothing more than a token show of resistance, if that.
So far, everything had worked out very well. No messages of help had gone out through the FTL systems, no ships had gotten past the pickets that were guarding the perimeter of the systems to be taken over. These three worlds were going to make up a core, from which the TF hoped to expand.
In orbit around Durbin, was something the TF was not expecting. Nor were they expecting the 6th infantry division to be firmly emplaced on the planet itself. Two Empire destroyers saw the incoming fleet, and sent a warning to the planet. They tried contacting the incoming ships, but received no reply.
They activated the two 'Mark 7 automated battle forts', which the Thor had dropped before its departure, bringing them on-line. Then they did something they were loath to do. They turned and ran. They also dropped four stealthy surveillance satellites.
"Damn," Admiral Lindel muttered as he saw the two destroyers fleeing. "There goes the secrecy of the task force."
There were also two 'battle forts' to deal with. He winced. The power and effectiveness of the Empire's Battle Forts was well known.
This was going to hurt more than just a bit.
Daniel had only been sleeping for three hours when he was awakened by the watch officer.
"Lieutenant, this had better be a life or death situation; or it is going to be your death, a slooow one," Daniel said, yawning himself awake.
"Yes, Sir. It is. There is a large force of Terran Federation ships approaching the planet. The two destroyers that were in orbit tried to contact them, but they came on in, silent. Assuming worst case, the destroyers activated the two battle forts. They sent an FTL message of invasion, and got the hell out," Lt. Kerry reported briskly.
Daniel was wide-awake by the time the Lt. was halfway through his report. He made his way to the toc, and was soon talking to the brigade commander.
"Daniel, your battalion and the 2nd, are the only ones out in the field, right now. There is a battle raging overhead. The Forts are doing their job, and are doing it well. But they're just automated gear. They're going to lose. I have seen the data feed.
"I want you to do a max combat load. Grab as much pre-positioned munitions as you can get in the next two hours, then have your battalion climb into a hole, and pull the damned hole in after you.
"Division is already alerted, and is trying to get moving. Their people were out of position, however, and it's a mess back here. You and the 2nd are it, in case this is an invasion. At least, until Division gets its act in gear.
"The units within Division that had been on ready alert, are already on the road. We are splitting them between you and the 2nd. Get ready to receive about two companies worth of platoons of various types, which will hit your lines in about an hour and a half. They are fully combat loaded, so you won't have to worry about that.
"Daniel, I can't impress on you enough the seriousness of this situation. You are hereby granted 'autonomous authority'. Make whatever independent moves necessary. Take the battle to the enemy when and as you see fit, if you don't here from me or from Division within the next twenty-four hours. Is this understood?" the voice of his brigade commander said over the secure radio.
"Understood, Sir. I'd better get a move on if it's as bad as you say," Daniel said.
"It's probably worse. Good luck and Godspeed. Brigade: out."
Daniel was busy for the next twenty minutes getting things moving. His headquarters was up, and he had vehicles moving to the ASP (ammunition supply point) for ammunition for his units.
He was surprised to discover that he was getting two platoons of armor. Tanks, to be exact! Two platoons of tanks were eight tanks. These were the Argent II tanks, as well! He made sure to grab extra basic loads for these babies. They represented something with a lot of punch and kick.
Admiral Lindel read the report again, with awe. Out of the original forty combat ships he had brought in-system, only sixteen were undamaged. Ten had been destroyed outright.
What was worse, was that the forts had fired a group of missiles around the planet on purely ballistic courses. These missiles had taken out two Galaxy Cargomaster ships, along with one fully combat loaded troop transport.
Then the two Imperial destroyers had returned, on a high speed flanking maneuver. They damaged three and destroyed two transports, before they escaped into hyper-drive.
First Lieutenant Jack Whittier, Imperial Special Forces, had gotten his team out well before the low yield tactical nuclear air bursts had taken out so much of the 6th division.
The three vehicles that made up the teams transportation were specially hardened and protected from anything short of a near miss/direct hit with a nuclear weapon, or a hit with an ion cannon.
This was one of the contingencies for which Jack and his team had been well trained. When the order came to scramble, SF-16 already had their PABS loaded in the three armored combat carryalls. They were lucky in that they had been preparing to go on an exercise the next day, as an aggressor force against units already in the field. (P.A.B.S = power assisted battle suits)
1Lt. Whittier had been closely monitoring the battle overhead via a stealth satellite's feed. When the last battle fort had been destroyed, he knew he would have only minutes. The invasion force would soon turn its attention to the military units leaving the city of Carone. His vehicles were well ahead of Division, and he meant to keep it that way... for now.
His vehicles were equipped with the Empires best and latest communications gear and defensive weaponry. They were incredibly heavy, being made of collapsed/condensed battle-armor steel. They were design intended for a team of fifteen to twenty Spec For personnel to be able to operate from them, for extended periods of time.
No one who was a PABS operator was without at least three years military experience, if they were enlisteds. Officers had to have at least one year of 'line officer' experience, at a minimum of Platoon Leader level-of-duty, prior to serving in a PABS unit. All of them had to have gone through Special Forces training schools, and had that special mentality required of all Special Forces troops.
"Sgt Cho?" Lt Whittier asked over the radio
"Sir?" came the response.
"I think bad things are going to happen. We need to go to ground, and get ready to weather fiery rain from the heavens above," LT Whittier said.
"Understood, Sir. I make it about six clicks to the ring of hills we have been running for. Ground after passing first range?" Sgt. Cho asked.
"Affirmative. They'll make a good deflector from any heavy blasts that might go off near here," the lieutenant said.
So it was, that SP-16 dropped from the ten-meter height at which they had been traveling, just after passing those first hills. This put a hill between each of themselves, and the city of Carone.
Just before grounding, the vehicles fired heavy spikes into the earth beneath them. These would help to stabilize the carryalls in case of extreme blast-winds. Each spike was attached to a special cable. When tension was placed on the cables, it caused the spikes to act as anchors for the carryalls.
"I am picking up an EMP burst, Lieutenant. Make that two EMP bursts," SSgt Billow said from his panel behind the pilot's cab.
"Well, that might explain the two nuclear air bursts I just saw on the feed from the satellite," the lieutenant said in response.
"I make us about fifteen klicks from the 1st Battalion, and about thirty klicks from the 2nd Battalion, Sir," Sgt. Morrison said in her soft drawl.
"Ok. I have vehicles pulling into both Battalion locations, at staggered intervals. Looks like some of the division managed to survive," the lieutenant told his crew.
"Well, this is just dandy. Don't they know they are being watched by everything that's up in orbit, right now? Are we really sure we want to place ourselves under the command of whoever is in charge over there?" Sgt Morrison asked sarcastically.
"Knock it off, Morrison. That Battalion Commander can't help it if stragglers are coming to his location. Hell, we had plans to come out here ourselves, remember?" SFC Carver said from the back of the crew compartment.
"Sorry. It just seems that people are pointing arrows saying, 'look, here is a safe zone'. Sort of goes against all my training," Sgt. Morrison finished in a soft voice.
The Terran Federation forces were finally down. Or what was left of them after the mauling they had been given up in space. LTG Phillip Brandon was pleased with his unit's response, but worried about the build up of surviving forces to the southeast of the city.
While the majority of his forces had come through the original battle, the loss of the cargo ships and troop transports had been enough to cause him to re-evaluate his situation. It had slowed his timetable considerably.
Then that god awful rail gun had opened up on the orbiting ships, just a couple days after they had swept the space around Durbin clean of all enemy and local traffic. It had taken out two more troop transports, another cargo ship, and damaged extensively the battleship and a cruiser before it had been targeted and destroyed. Investigation showed it had been remotely operated, so they hadn't even touched its crew.
That had also made it clear that there was one of those damned Imperial stealth satellites up there somewhere, feeding someone on the ground up to the second information.
The navy said they were sweeping for the satellite, but the general was not holding his breath. The navy could be sitting right next to the damned thing, and never know it! That was how good Imperial technology was.
Out of his entire 4th corps all he had left, basically, was a reinforced division. This planet, which had been advertised as a cakewalk, had turned into a hellish nightmare. The people of Durbin were NOT receptive to the idea of the TF occupying their world.
It didn't take LTG Brandon long to get his troops organized and moving, but on a slightly altered 'map'. A corps normally had three divisions contained within it. Not so, any longer. All LTG Brandon had left, was the 12th infantry division, with the remnants of the 16th and 8th divisions. All of them combined together, added up to little over a brigade-sized element.
LTG Brandon had considered holding the 16th as a replacement source for losses to the 12th, but early intelligence said that it was possible at least a battalion sized element had managed to survive the nuclear air bursts, that had taken out so much of the Empire's 6th Division.
It turned out there was more, much more than a battalion, out to the southeast. Brandon had sent out a brigade of his mechanized infantry to capture or destroy the remnants of the enemy division, only to have his brigade badly mauled, forcing a retreat.
Air cover was impossible, as something kept shooting down his recon drones, and his few fighters. After that battle, LTG Brandon had supplemented the loss of the brigade that had gotten torn up, with the remnants of the 8th, bringing his one remaining division back up to strength.
While suggestions had been made to the admiral in orbit, that it might be beneficial to use tactical nukes to clear out the remnants of the enemy, the admiral had forbidden it. He was already in trouble for contaminating with radiation, some of the growing fields of the plant that made this world so valuable. Initial estimates were at twenty million credits lost to contamination, already. This was not to mention the shortage of the longevity drug that this operation was going to cause. All that was in addition to the anger caused to the local populace.
LTG Brandon sighed. Politics was ever the soldier's enemy. Civilian authorities just did not understand the need for certain actions. Or, what was worse, they did understand; but refused to let the military do what was needed to win, anyway.
LTG Brandon went back to his reports and scowled. For the past several weeks, since the grounding and deployment of his forces, his remaining forces were being picked off. There was a growing profusion of hit and run attacks, and sniper fire. It was turning into a war of attrition, and he was thinking he was going to lose.
Sick call showed an unbelievable increase over the normal daily usual. An increase of twenty-two percent. Soldiers had actually hurt themselves deliberately in order to rotate away from front line emplacements.
Emperor Richard Newcastle was angry. His intelligence people had assured him that while the Terran Federation might still be building up, they would not do anything. The past hundred years had shown them to be cautious about doing anything remotely considered expansionist.
He fired his intelligence chief (or he would, when he got back to Newcastle). The TF had invaded Imperial space, in particular, the planet Durbin. He winced when he heard that. Durbin had already been pissed about what had happened during the alien invasion. Now this!
Science Fiction /