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Authors: Thomas DePrima

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BOOK: Against All Odds
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Inside the hall, a clerk escorted Jenetta to one of the seats reserved for visiting admirals at the horseshoe-shaped table. A holographic display at the front edge of the table, identified her to the other flag officers who would attend the meeting. It hardly seemed necessary, so Jenetta assumed that it was mainly for archival recording purposes. Lori took a seat directly behind Jenetta.

The Board Admirals, along with their aides and clerks, began to enter the chamber from an entrance opposite that of the outer chamber a few minutes before 1000 hours. Jenetta stood and shook hands with each of the admirals, then exchanged pleasantries until it was time for the meeting to begin. She had met all but one at the ceremony when she received the Medal of Honor years earlier. Admiral Hubera hadn't attended that day, but she knew him from her days at the Academy when he had been a professor there. He seemed pleasant enough today, but distant.

"This meeting of the Admiralty Board is now open," Admiral Moore said. "We welcome Admiral Jenetta Carver as a visiting flag officer to this session."

The Board discussed old business first, which included nothing that concerned Jenetta or Region Two, then moved to new business.

"Admiral Carver, you've requested time to address the Board," Admiral Moore said. "You may make your presentation now."

"Thank you, Admiral. I was quite astounded when this Board chose to place me in command of Region Two, but if that is your wish I shall do the job to the best of my abilities. I know you are well aware of the problems confronting me as I carry out the duties of my position. Region Two is twice as vast as Region One and establishing proper patrol coverage will take many resources and much time. Prior to their last expansion effort, the Milori had six hundred ships in the fleets tasked to maintain control over an empire just two-thirds our size. I have eight ships in my fleet at present. When all of the M-designate ships and the twelve Mars-built ships arrive a year from now, I'll have one sixth of the Milori strength, but it will be an additional five years before they can reach the remotest sectors of the Region.

"I know that most of the output from the Mars shipyard for the next ten years has been pledged to Region Two and I will not ask for a more generous share of Space Command's assets than that already promised. I propose instead that the output from the yard be modified."

"Modified in what way?" Admiral Plimley asked. As the Director of Weapons Research & Development, she headed the committee that directed ship construction at the yard, although the full Board decided the quantity and class of the ships.

"It takes six or more years to build a new battleship. Each Prometheus class battleship is one-thousand nine-hundred-seventy meters in length and has a crew complement of three-thousand five-hundred."

"We know that already," Admiral Hubera said testily, "get to the point."

Jenetta stared silently at the curmudgeon for several seconds while he stared back. She had never intentionally done anything to incur his wrath and his attitude surprised her, but she didn't flinch as she returned his glare with a steady stare of her own. He had just spoken to her as he had when she was a cadet in his class. But she wasn't a cadet any longer; she was a flag officer, just as he was. In fact, she out ranked him, a fact that was eating away at him as he watched a superior officer who appeared to be about twenty-one years of age. Jenetta could see the bitterness in his eyes.

"On the other hand," Jenetta said, continuing, "a Colorado class scout-destroyer is one-twentieth the size of a battleship, requires one-twentieth the construction resources, could be completed in one-twelfth the time, and only requires a crew one-twentieth that of a battleship. I would gladly accept twenty scout-destroyers in place of one battleship. More precisely, I would prefer to have sixty new scout-destroyers instead of the next three battleships earmarked for Region Two. The resources required to produce and crew the ships will be about equal."

The members of the Board looked at one another as they thought about her statements. Admiral Platt was the first to speak.

"A scout-destroyer can't do the things that a battleship can do. A point you might be overlooking is that a battleship has twenty times the firing capacity and carries a battalion of Marines."

"I would pit any DS scout-destroyer against any non-DS hulled battleship. I need warships capable of Light-9375 and I need them in quantity as soon as possible. I realize everyone may be thinking of these small ships simply as adjuncts to battleships, but they are much more than that. I was able to crush the Milori resolve to continue the war with just two such vessels."

"But you didn't have to fight any ship-to-ship engagements with them," Admiral Burke said.

"While true that I didn't fight any prolonged warship-to-warship battles with them, I know their capability. We were struck thousands of times by laser pulses when we destroyed Milor's shipyard. We were able to completely ignore the ring of laser weapon satellites because we knew they couldn't harm us. It would be no different in a ship battle. We would only have to worry about torpedo strikes. And don't forget, I took and held Stewart for months with just one crippled scout-destroyer."

"What about the lack of Marine fighter craft?" Admiral Woo asked. "And scout-destroyers won't allow you to have the normal complement of Marines, nor their landing craft and armored assault vehicles. Wouldn't you be better off having twelve new DS destroyers instead of sixty scout-destroyers?"

"Right now I need quantity more than overall ship capability. I don't anticipate any planet-side actions until we first get basic control of space. I'm not saying battleships, cruisers, frigates, or destroyers wouldn't be much more useful, or that I wouldn't
to have a fleet of them. I would, most definitely. But I need as many warships as possible right now and I think the best solution is to mass-produce the scout-destroyers. These small ships can zip to the furthest reaches of Region Two in a matter of weeks, giving us a presence there
before our older ships can arrive. Any criminals who try to establish a power base in the remote areas will find us stalking them long before they anticipate our arrival."

"We have five scout-destroyers nearing completion now," Admiral Hillaire said. "They're intended for the Prometheus, Chiron, Atlas, Hercules, and Epimetheus. Would they make such a difference if we could send them to you when they're completed?"

"An immense difference. You can't think of these small ships as merely scouting vessels. I would use every one as a full-fledged warship until they can be replaced by destroyers, frigates, cruisers, or battleships. While it's true they can't carry the armament or supplies of a full-sized destroyer, nor the fighters and personnel of the larger ships, and must return for resupply more often, five more ships would almost double my current fleet size. I could either allow two of our three bases to begin making limited patrols, or I could open two more bases."

"You believe two ships are adequate to protect a base?" Admiral Hubera asked.

"I'd much prefer to have a minimum of five full-size warships protecting every base, but as was the case with Stewart when it became a base, we simply don't have that luxury. I'm forced to stretch my resources as much as possible, and hope I'm not risking lives any more than necessary. Ladies and gentlemen, right now we have an incredible edge over every other military in this quadrant of the galaxy. We all know that won't last because once intelligent beings see what's possible, they find a way to accomplish it themselves. The possibility of attaining Light-9375 is not idle speculation anymore. I'm sure every nation's military has intelligence agents trying to learn how we've done it, if they don't already know. Once they do know how it's accomplished, they'll be working to duplicate it. We know one way, but it may not be the
way. We have to take advantage of our technological superiority while we have it to secure Region Two. In future years, the scout-destroyers will be less adequate for the job we must do, but right now each is more useful than an older battleship for the task at hand, and one-twentieth the cost."

"Thank you for your suggestion, Admiral," Admiral Moore said. "We'll study the shipyard construction schedule and see if the changes you request are possible. Is there anything else you wish to bring up for discussion?"

"No, Admiral. My weekly reports contain everything that concerns the Board."

"In that case, Admiral Bradlee has some information for you. Roger?"

"Admiral Carver, we've received information that Raiders may be planning an attack against a former Milori base in Region Two. The information comes from part of a conversation overheard in a bar in the Uthlaro Dominion. We have no specifics and for all we know the base being discussed could be in Hudeera or Gondusan space now. Truthfully, it could be anywhere because the Milori were spreading out in their goal to rule the galaxy. But we felt you should be made aware of the information."

"When did you learn of this?"

"The information arrived here two months ago, but the conversation took place three months ago."

"Three months? The Raiders could have traveled more than sixty light-years since then."

"We didn't want to alarm you unnecessarily. We've been trying to get more precise information since then."

"I see. I appreciate your desire to have substantive information before reporting something overheard in a conversation but, in the future, it would be helpful to learn about such reports immediately, even if it's only a rumor or partial information."

"Of course."

Jenetta sat quietly while other business was discussed. She appeared to be listening intently to the business of the Board, but she was in reality only half listening, most of her brain being used to consider the information about a base attack. The meeting was adjourned just before 1200.

"Admiral Carver," Admiral Moore said as the flag officers rose from their seats, "would you join us for lunch?"

Although not a command, Jenetta realized from the way it was worded that it was more than an invitation. She had intended to return directly home, but instead said, "Thank you sir, I'd love to. May I bring my pets?"

Admiral Moore hesitated for a second and then said, "I wasn't aware they were here. Of course you may."

"Thank you, sir."

"Call me Richard, or Rich. May I call you Jenetta?"

"It's Jen to my friends, Rich."

Admiral Moore smiled. "Where are your pets, Jen?"

"In the outer chamber. I was told they couldn't be admitted to the meeting hall."

"That doesn't apply to the pets of flag officers, as long as they don't interrupt the meeting."

Jenetta walked to the door and opened it. "Cayla, Tayna, come with me."

The two large cats jumped up and sprang for the open doorway while the clerk who said they couldn't enter looked on in horror. With her pets at her side and Lt. Cmdr. Ashraf following, Jenetta walked to the private entrance on the opposite side of the meeting hall where Admiral Moore was waiting. The door opened into a wide corridor with doors on either side.

"I've read about these
of yours, Jen," Admiral Moore said as they walked towards the end of the hallway, "but I'd never seen a picture of them. They're larger than I imagined."

"They're an average size for Taurentlus-Thur Jumakas. They make excellent companions for a senior officer in a command situation where he or she has little contact with peers."

"How long did it take to train them?"

"They were already trained to provide security for a gemstone shop on Taurentlus-Thur when I received them. I never had to provide any additional training."

"But they responded when you spoke to them in Amer."

"I can't explain that. From the beginning I've only spoken to them in Amer and they've always seemed to understand precisely what I say. With a Terran animal, you have to repeat commands precisely the same way every time. I speak to my cats the way I would speak to another person."

"I've heard they were intelligent animals. You're saying now that they understand spoken language?"

"All I can say is that they understand
. And they understand when someone is threatening me. When that assassin at Dixon Space Command Base tried to kill me, they attacked him without any verbal command from me in a shopping area filled with people. They knew who presented the danger before I was aware of him, and took action to stop him. They saved my life."

As they reached the end of the corridor, the doors there slid silently open. Since their implanted CTs permit access to secure areas, any flag officer listed in the Space Command central computer can open the doors to the private dining room simply by approaching them.

The other admirals were already seated in the room when Admiral Moore and Jenetta entered. Two large circular tables in the center of the large room, each capable of seating a dozen people, were set for dining. The Admirals occupied one and their aides the other.

Once seated, Admiral Moore said, "Jen, in here we're always on a first name basis." Gesturing to each of the flag officers, he gave their first names, then said to the others, "Admiral Carver prefers that her friends call her Jen."

"Jen," Admiral Platt said, "we've all read the reports and seen the vid logs of your campaign in Milori space, but I'd like to hear some of the things that aren't typically included in reports. For example, what were you feeling when you laid waste to the Milori home world?"

BOOK: Against All Odds
4.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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