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Authors: Thomas DePrima

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BOOK: Against All Odds
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"We'll probably feel that way once we start organizing the new bases," Admiral Colsey said, "and realize how many things we were unable to bring. At least we can look forward to more timely deliveries by the new Quartermaster transports. They're the largest single hull transports ever built and they'll be packing them from bulkhead to bulkhead for each of their trips."

"If the Mars timetable is accurate," Jenetta said, "the new transports will be here to resupply us even before the ships I dispatched while I was still the base commander at Stewart."

"Light-9375 has given us a considerable advantage over our neighbors," Admiral Mendez said. "I wonder how much longer the speed will remain a secret."

"I'm sure many have already heard the rumors," Jenetta said. "You can't expect to keep anything this monumental under wraps for long. I imagine foreign agents are already hard at work trying to learn the secret of Light-9375 speed. But as important as the speed is, the new hull material that makes us impervious to laser array fire is more valuable. We might not have been able to so easily destroy the Milori shipyards without it. The yards were ringed with laser weapon satellites. We must have taken a thousand hits to each scout-destroyer. We were able to completely ignore the satellites because we knew they couldn't harm us."

"It would be nice if the weapons folks could come up with a material impervious to torpedoes as well," Captain Stager said.

"Speed and total invulnerability may not be possible. The Dakinium is responsible for the speed improvement. If they change the formula to make it more indestructible, we might be pushed back to Light-450 again. It would be difficult trying to decide between near invincibility or Light-9375."

"I'll keep the speed," Captain Elder said. "The Phalanx system you developed while at Stewart will take care of most torpedoes. The speed will enable us to stop anyone from eluding us while enabling us to get away from any pursuers if the odds against us are too great."

"Captain DeWitt and her people in Weapons Research & Development did an incredible job in developing our Phalanx system. The last time I communicated with her, she told me her section is still working to improve the program code for the weapons computer module. She says they won't stop until she can guarantee one hundred percent effectiveness destroying incoming torpedoes. That would be wonderful, but I think it's an elusive dream. If faced with a dozen warships all firing torpedoes as fast as they can reload, they'll probably overwhelm any system we could develop."

"That's where the speed really comes in handy," Captain Elder said, smiling.

"Yes, there are times when you must stand your ground and fight to the bitter end, but there are also times when, as Shakespeare wrote, 'The better part of valor is discretion.'"

"With the Milori defeated," Admiral Colsey said, "there will be few instances where a Space Command vessel will have to retreat."

"Hopefully," Jenetta said. "But until we bring peace and stability to Region Two, we may find ourselves occasionally outnumbered by Raiders or pirates."

"Have you determined where we'll establish the first bases in this Region?" Admiral Sprague asked.

"Yes, I have. Prior to the second expansion in Region One, our bases were located roughly one hundred light-years apart. Following the expansion, bases were being established two hundred light-years apart. Stewart was the exception because we commandeered a Raider base that was ready to occupy. It was four hundred light-years from its nearest neighbor. Given our new speed capability, I've decided we'll initially establish a network of bases with each being as far distant as one thousand light-years from its nearest neighbor. As more bases are occupied, we'll fill in the gaps, with the eventual goal being to have all bases no more than two hundred light-years from a neighbor. Help will be less than eight days away for vessels with Light-3795. The Milori were maintaining eighty-six bases prior to their last expansion towards the Galactic Alliance outer border. Twelve of those bases were in territory returned to the Hudeera and Gondusans, leaving us seventy-two occupied bases."

"Occupied?" Admiral Colsey questioned.

"Yes. One of the Milori surrender terms requires them to keep a security force at each base to prevent scavengers from moving in to strip weapons or generally trash the place. The Milori forces are responsible for seeing the base remains intact and in good condition until they can be relieved by our forces."

"Do you think they'll honor that agreement?" Admiral Sprague asked. "They didn't honor the first peace treaty we signed with them."

"I can't know for sure, but I'm hoping they will. I've tried to impress upon them that we'll treat them fairly if they cooperate. They already know what we're capable of if they betray our trust again."

"It'll take years for us to occupy seventy-two bases," Admiral Mendez said.

"Yes, so for our first operations I've identified three existing space station bases where our presence should have the greatest impact. I estimate we'll need twenty-two additional StratCom-One bases, with the remainder of the bases being designated as either StratCom-Two or StratCom-Three. That plan includes a number of new bases in the five hundred light-years of territory between the Region One outer border and the original Milori border. The Milori hadn't yet established any bases there, so those will have to be built from scratch unless we push some of the existing space stations for which we don't have an anticipated need to new locations. At Light-75, it will take years for the space tugs to position them but probably not as long as it would take to construct new stations."

"Even the initial twenty-five bases may take a long time to properly staff," Admiral Colsey said.

"True," Jenetta said, "and the onerous task of holding everything together out here has fallen squarely on our shoulders. We believe that the greatest threats to peace and stability will come from the Tsgardi and Uthlaro borders. The Gondusans and Hudeera were our allies in the fight against the Milori and they've been weakened by decades of war with the Milori, so I'm not expecting many problems from that direction. The border with the Ruwalch Confederacy should be fairly quiet because we believe that they, like us, just want peace. Reportedly, their technology is adequate to ensure they have little to worry about from their immediate neighbors. The Uthlaro border is by far the longest of the five border areas we must safeguard and we know they have very close ties with the Raiders, so I've identified two bases in that part of Region Two for immediate occupancy. Each is roughly a hundred light-years from the border. A base located one hundred light-years from the Tsgardi border will be our third StratCom-One base. All three are within a thousand light-years of Quesann."

"It will be difficult to protect forward bases with just one warship at each," Captain Stager said.

"Actually, you'll each have two warships. When you arrive at the base, launch the scout-destroyer you each carry and allow it to operate as an independent ship, just as the Colorado and Yangtze operate now. I'd rather have one of these small ships at my disposal than an M-designate battleship.

"And speaking of M-designate ships, as soon as the first twelve arrive in seven months we'll unload them and three will immediately be dispatched to each base. Unfortunately, it will take them more than twenty-five months to reach your bases. When the rest of the force presently on its way to Region Two arrives next year, current plans call for each base to receive an additional nine ships. Those ships will proceed directly there rather than having to come here first. We'll also be ready to open several more bases at that time."

"It's so incredible that we'll reach the new bases in less than forty days," Admiral Sprague said, "but it'll take years for the older ships to get there. As I said earlier, I wish we could just hook them up and drag them along with us as we do with the scout-destroyers."

"That would be wonderful," Jenetta said, "but the scout-destroyers are DS, or Dakinium-sheathed, like the main ship, so it's possible to include them in the temporal envelopes. What I'm about to tell you is top-secret. Light-9375 only became possible because the Dakinium hull plating begins to resonate as the envelopes are created. The resonance is entirely responsible for causing the formation of a second temporal envelope around the first. By instantly creating the resonance in the hull, both temporal envelopes can develop simultaneously. So you can't tow another ship at Light-9375 unless the hull of the towed vessel is also sheathed in Dakinium."

"I see," Admiral Sprague said. "Then it would be impossible for anyone else to develop Light-9375 unless they get the formulae for Dakinium?"

"Presently— and that's why it's the most closely guarded secret in Space Command these days. The Raiders have known of the discovery of Dakinium since their Tsgardi mercenaries tried to recover the cloning equipment on Mawcett, but I don't know if they're aware that the Dakinium allowed us to shatter the theoretical speed limit. Of course, as alien scientists learn that dual envelope theory has not only been proven but, in fact, put into everyday use, they'll begin looking for ways and materials to duplicate what we've accomplished. Unlike the DATFA technology that allowed us to travel faster than light, we won't be sharing the formula for Dakinium with commercial users. That should prevent unscrupulous businesspersons from selling the process to our enemies as happened with temporal field generation. I estimate we should have at least ten years of speed advantage before anyone can develop their own materials. We must have Region Two completely secured by then."

* * *

Over the next several days, the people, equipment, and supplies destined for the headquarters base were offloaded and transported down to the surface. A completed building on the planet was designated as a makeshift dormitory until the first of the planned housing units was completed. The other completed buildings were used as warehouses.

After the unloading, the crews of the battleships and the personnel destined for the new bases were allowed a few days R&R on the tropical island. The base complement immediately swelled to over ten thousand, causing special problems with food and sleeping accommodations. Many chose to simply sleep on the beach rather than shuttling back up to the ships. The weather cooperated by providing bright sunny days and clear evenings. The temperatures varied from a warm twenty degrees Celsius at night to a balmy twenty-six during the days. Large beach barbeques quickly arranged by food service personnel fed the thousands of vacationing crewmembers. Marines patrolled along the shoreline continuously to ensure no newcomers forgot the ban on entering the briny water.

Jenetta had dinner with the three admirals every evening and spent time in meetings with them each day until they were prepared for their new assignments. A week after their arrival, the three battleships departed for the thirty-one-to-thirty-nine-day journeys to their new bases. Occupation of Region Two was underway.

Chapter Three

~ January 21
, 2282 ~

"Happy New Year Ladies and Gentlemen, from Region Two Space Command Headquarters – Quesann," Admiral Carver said to the members of the Admiralty Board. Her image filled the large, full-wall monitor in the meeting hall always used for their sessions. All ten members of the Board were at the large horseshoe-shaped table at Supreme Headquarters on Earth to view the message sent almost three weeks earlier. The gallery was empty today, but a couple of dozen aides and senior officers occupied chairs behind their admirals. Petty officer clerks, ready to rush off and take care of important matters if called upon by one of the admirals, sat behind the officers.

"Admirals Sprague, Colsey, and Mendez have arrived at their assigned bases and accepted responsibility for the stations from the Milori security forces left behind to safeguard the facilities. Each new commanding officer reports the base is in good condition. The Milori forces will be transported to Milor at the first opportunity. For the present, their orders from the Milori Viceroy call for them to wait on the station but remain apart from our personnel as much as possible. The admirals have each designated housing and recreation areas for the Milori and placed those sections off limits to Space Command personnel.

"The engineers immediately began working to adapt the space stations to our physical requirements and needs. Changing the signage to Amer is a simple matter and should be complete by the time you receive this, but it will require quite a bit more time to properly adapt equipment designed to be operated with gripper claws and tentacles so it can be operated comfortably by human hands.

"All the equipment, supplies, and ordnance have been offloaded from the battleships and placed into storage areas and armories aboard the stations. A Distant DeTect Network has been established at each station to provide an early warning of approaching ships. I've ordered that the scout-destroyers be treated as separate warships until reinforcements arrive, and that neither ship departs the immediate vicinity of the station without R2HQ permission. It means we're unable to carry out normal Space Command functions but, given the hostile nature of the territory, protection of the base must take priority. When the first of the M-designate ships arrive in two to three years, the stations will be ready to begin limited patrol operations.

"Jenetta A. Carver, Admiral, Region Two Space Command Headquarters, Quesann. Message complete."

"Her report sounds very positive," Admiral Moore said. "Let's hope things continue to go so well in the future."

BOOK: Against All Odds
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