Read Auberon (The Jessica Keller Chronicles Book 1) Online

Authors: Blaze Ward

Tags: #pirates, #space opera, #exploration, #starship, #military, #empire, #artificial intelligence

Auberon (The Jessica Keller Chronicles Book 1)

BOOK: Auberon (The Jessica Keller Chronicles Book 1)
5.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Blaze Ward

Copyright © 2015 Blaze Ward

All rights reserved

Published by Knotted Road Press

Version 2


Cover art:

Copyright © Innovari | – Escort Spaceships Photo


Cover and interior design copyright © 2015 Knotted Road Press


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This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Overture: St. Legier

Imperial Founding: 170/09/04. St. Legier

Emmerich waited stoically outside the conference room door, the maroon of his Admiral Of The Red dress uniform contrasting nicely with the gold theme of the walls, standing at parade rest. It was hard not to fret. The two guards protecting the door were entirely professional, down to the light battle rifles each had hung from a sling.

He knew better than to read too much into their posture, nor their presence. That was normal, as those things went. His Sovereign Imperial Majesty, Karl VII, House Wiegand, Sovereign Lord of the
Fribourg Empire
, Grand Duke of
St. Legier
, Supreme Commandant of the Imperial Navy, and about a hundred other titles, equally long and equally interesting, at least to historians, sat on the other side of that door.

He would be invited inside soon enough.

No. Strike that. Now.

Emmerich watched the door open on silent glass hinges, carefully counter–weighted against its immense mass.

A man in a dark blue Captain’s uniform stood at the door and fixed him with a stare. It wasn’t hostile, predominantly. Cousin Reiner was just a serious person, engaged in serious business. This was a serious day.

“Admiral Wachturm,” he called. The words had a formal cant to them, as was to be expected with the door to the chamber open. Appearances had to be kept up, at all costs. “His Majesty will see you now.”

Reiner disappeared back a step into the room. Emmerich came out of his parade rest and stepped across the hall. Inside the chamber it was better than he hoped. And worse.

Seven men around a conference table. The big kind, cut and polished out of a single piece of blue granite, resting atop heavy wooden legs, dark with age and polish. The walls were rather plain, made from a dark jade covered with a few tapestries that represented particularly important battles in the founding and history of the Empire. It was a harsh room. These were harsh men.

His Imperial Majesty Karl VII. A tall, dour man with dark hair finally halfway gray and a beard that had long since passed. But for his own lack of a beard, Emmerich had been more than occasionally mistaken for the Emperor’s younger brother Klaus.

At least today His Majesty was wearing the dark blue uniform of the Supreme Commandant, with the single spiral galaxy as a rank on each shoulder board, rather than the more formal Imperial robes of state. Hopefully, that meant something good.

Six other men around the table. Two uncles. Four cousins, not counting the Emperor. This gathering was the Imperial Fleet. There might be an Admiral’s Counsel, down two stories and in a different wing of the palace, but they handled administrative tasks. Here, in this room, resided control of the Fribourg Empire. Or, at least, the Imperial Navy, and that was almost the same thing.

Grand Admiral Huff, Operational Chief of the Naval Staff, occasionally Uncle Hans, rose from his chair and rapped the table for attention.

“Sergeant At Arms,” he called in a clear baritone, the kind intended to be heard across a burning deck in the middle of battle, “Clear and lock the room.”

Two guards detached themselves from just inside the door. Two more joined them from the far end.

It was an impressive ritual. Every man in the room, including the Emperor himself, was inspected against his credentials badge, then against the records of the Imperial Marines, and personally authorized to remain behind. The four marines closed the door behind them as they left.

Emmerich listened to the quiet sound as blast bars locked the vault–like door into position. It sounded like doom whispered in the still air.

Several moments passed, Emmerich staring at his kin wordlessly. Them staring back.

“Em,” Grand Admiral Huff began, pointing to an empty chair on one side. “Sit down and tell us what really happened at the Battle of Iger…”


Imperial Founding: 170/02/17. In the

It was a comfortable place, his home away from home for several years. Emmerich Wachturm, Admiral of the Red, stood at the flag console of his Battleship,
Imperial Fighting Vessel
IFV) Amsel
. Around him, a quiet, competent crew worked at their stations, lending the space a calm that eluded him.

He scowled at the politician on the communications screen through heavy, lidded eyes. He suppressed the exasperated sigh that threatened to escape his lips.

“As I have already told you, Governor,” he felt stupid repeating himself, but the man apparently just was not willing to let an original thought enter his head. “There are not enough vessels available to station them as you demand. The orbital platforms will just have to defend themselves. I cannot imagine that the
Republic of Aquitaine
cares enough about you personally to threaten your investments. And I do not have enough ships to evacuate them. Goodbye and good luck.”

He stabbed the button to sever the connection as if poking the idiot bureaucrat in the eye. That would have made him feel a little better. It would not have done much good, but there was not much about this day that he could do.

A hand, once across the face as if scraping away a layer of flesh. So much to do, if he was going to salvage this situation. How had they managed to be caught so far off guard?

Emmerich looked at the man across the console from him, quietly waiting for his turn to speak. He fixed his aide, his Flag Captain, with a tired stare. “What is the status of the enemy fleet?”

The man glanced down once, not long enough to read anything, but enough to confirm the numbers on the table before him. Always a professional.

“We have a probable on two Republic Fleet Carriers, one of them possibly
, plus a regular fleet of escorts and consorts. According to Imperial Intelligence, the First Fleet Lord should be Loncar.”

Emmerich nodded to himself. He muttered under his breath, but the men were used to his habits. “And just enough time to throw me into the breach and ask me to pull out a miracle,” he growled under his breath. “What is the status of
Black Widow

“The Republic escorts have been finding and smashing the probes we left behind,” the captain said, “but as of an hour ago, they had sorted themselves out, arrayed to battle in their usual formations, and launched their assault waves. Those fighters should be reaching the outermost
system defenses in another eighteen minutes, sir. Nothing from
Black Widow
as of yet.”

Emmerich felt his first smile of the day. Count on Fleet Lord Loncar to fall for it. A surprise thrust at a weakly–defended Imperial system by a major Republic fleet. Surprise across the board, only barely thwarted by routine Imperial Intelligence operations and the luck of his squadron being close enough to get here first.

The captain gave him a concerned look. He leaned in.

“What is it?” Emmerich asked, all serious now that battle was at hand.

Black Widow
is likely to be annihilated, Admiral,” the man said quietly, so quietly that nobody else on the bridge could hear.

Emmerich leaned in as well. This wasn’t a conversation to have in public, but Flag Captain Baumgärtner had been with him for several years. “
Black Widow
was going to be annihilated when they got out of bed this morning, Hendrik. It would have been 24 on 54, and them on the defensive. At least this way, they stand a very good change of destroying two Republic Fleet Carriers and smashing the entire enemy campaign in one afternoon.”

Overture: St. Legier

Imperial Founding: 170/08/04. St. Legier

“So what happened at that point, Em?” Uncle Hans asked. He seemed curious rather than hostile. Perhaps the Emperor hadn’t decided to retire Emmerich to Academy life, just yet.

“As clearly as we can tell,” Emmerich replied, “the surprise was only partial. It is possible someone sent a signal that was deciphered at the last moment. As soon as the fighter squadrons that made up the
Black Widow
element came over the pole of the third moon, they encountered the Republic destroyer squadron moving across to intercept. That force had been on the lee–side of the fleet from the moon and the ambush, but managed to get into position fast enough save the carriers. The attacking Republic fighters were recalled but could not affect the outcome of that battle. Damage across the Republic fleet was still significant before
Black Widow
was destroyed. The
Republic of Aquitaine
fleet packed up and fled.
was saved.”

The Emperor had been sipping coffee from a mug that had been a present from a niece as he listened. He leaned forward now, eyes intent and narrowed. His brow furrowed in concentration. “Could it have been a trap to destroy
Black Widow
and two squadrons of fighters?”

Emmerich shrugged. He had thought the same until he played back the logs. “Possibly, Sire,” he said carefully. His Majesty was touchy about certain things. “I would find it an amazingly high price to pay, considering one Fleet Carrier significantly damaged, and three destroyers mauled. Had the destroyers been on the left flank instead of the right, they would have crushed
Black Widow
at very little risk to themselves. As it was, I have a very grainy image of what we think is the lead destroyer physically ramming one damaged fighter and getting its nose scorched, rather than letting the craft explode near the other carrier.”

The Emperor leaned back and scanned the room. Emmerich held his breath. The eventual Court of Inquiry would be a mere formality. The next words would actually be his fate. All eyes watched His Majesty.

“I think,” Karl began, “that We owe you yet another debt of gratitude for saving the Empire, Em.”

“Sire,” Emmerich nodded, face down to keep anyone from seeing his eyes light up. Hopefully he wouldn’t be forced into retirement any time soon. There was nothing worse than a desk job.

“You and your crews were planning on a quiet sailing tour before all hell broke loose,” Karl VII continued with a smile. “I think We can finally arrange that...”

Chapter I

Date of the Republic June 26, 392 Command Headquarters: Ladaux

The closest image she could think of to compare was a pod of whales, great gray beasts in all sizes arrayed below her as she watched.

Jessica stood at the long plexisteel portal and looked down at the vastness of the immense orbital drydock and graving yard exposed below her. She snorted under her breath at the terms. There was neither water nor concrete involved, but the names had come into space with the sailors who manned them A careful, conservative lot.

That might be a problem shortly.

Her court–martial was almost concluded, but for the verdict. Her fate was in the hands of a group of Fleet Lords, who might or might not be on her side. This might be her last chance at this view.

For a moment, she considered the road that had gotten her here. The choices, the what–ifs, the things she barely whispered to herself in the dead of night, but had never shared with another soul. There was no other for her.

Or perhaps, she had simply never made the time, to look, to pause, to wonder. It was simply not in her makeup to rest, to relax, to engage in random frivolity.

It wasn’t who she was. Even now.

Below, in the nearest bay, her own ship was berthed.

Republic of Aquitaine Navy
) Destroyer Leader
looked forlorn, with a massive number of panels opened down her flank. The entire bow section, at least what remained after the Battle of
, had been removed at the eighth frame, shortening the vessel by nearly a fifth.

BOOK: Auberon (The Jessica Keller Chronicles Book 1)
5.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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