Battlegroup (StarFight Series Book 2)

BOOK: Battlegroup (StarFight Series Book 2)
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BATTLEGROUP

 

Book Two of the StarFight Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T. Jackson King

 

 

 

 

Other King Novels

Superguy (2016), Battlestar (2016), Defeat The Aliens (2016), Fight The Aliens (2016), First Contact (2015), Escape From Aliens (2015), Aliens Vs. Humans (2015), Freedom Vs. Aliens (2015), Humans Vs. Aliens (2015), Earth Vs. Aliens (2014), Genecode Illegal (2014), The Memory Singer (2014), Alien Assassin (2014), Anarchate Vigilante (2014), Galactic Vigilante (2013), Nebula Vigilante (2013), Speaker To Aliens (2013), Galactic Avatar (2013), Stellar Assassin (2013), Retread Shop (2012, 1988), Star Vigilante (2012), The Gaean Enchantment (2012), Little Brother’s World (2010), Judgment Day And Other Dreams (2009), Ancestor’s World (1996).

Dedication

To my wife Sue, my son Keith and my dad Thomas, thank you all for your active duty service in defense of America.

Acknowledgments

First thanks go to scholar John Alcock and his book
Animal Behavior, An Evolutionary Approach
(1979). Second thanks go to the scholar Edward O. Wilson, whose book
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
has guided me in my efforts to explore a future where humanity encounters life from other stars.

 

BATTLEGROUP

© 2016 T. Jackson King

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except for brief quotations for review purposes only..

 

Cover design by T. Jackson King; cover image by Luca Oleastri via Dreamstime license; back image of Carina Nebula, courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope

 

First Edition

Published by T. Jackson King, Santa Fe, NM 87507

http://www.tjacksonking.com/

ISBN 10:  1-53712-857-4

ISBN 13:  978-1-53712-857-3

Printed in the United States of America

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

“Captain, do we track down and kill that wasp ship?” Richard O’Connor asked Jacob.

He looked at the Kepler 10 holo graphic and considered the seven planets that orbited its yellow star, the vastness of the system’s Kuiper Belt, its millions of icy comets and moonlets, and the issue of whether to kill the wasp ship that had stayed behind when the rest of its fleet fled to Kepler 22. It was nine hours since this enemy ship had hit the planet Valhalla with two nukes and three lightning bombs, killing hundreds in a suburb of the capital Stockholm. Daisy had brought up twelve badly injured civilians for treatment in the
Lepanto’s
Med Hall, while the LCAs from the cruisers
Chesapeake
and
Hampton Roads
had done the same. The orbital Star Navy Base’s own Med Hall was treating 137 civies. But Stockholm’s single hospital was still overloaded with injuries from the three lightning bomb plasma blasts that had toppled buildings and sent gale-driven shrapnel into people.

The planet Valhalla, which he and the eight ships of his battle group were sworn to protect as Earth’s seventh colony world, had escaped total devastation thanks to the last battle against the invading wasp starships. Four wasp ships had left for their colony in the Kepler 22 system, while a fifth was now heading outward. Perhaps to the system’s cometary belt. Or maybe to leave by way of Alcubierre stardrive once it hit the edge of the system’s magnetosphere. The wasp ship’s outward vector gave him his answer.

Jacob looked down at the grade five chief warrant officer who sat in the Bridge seat of the ship’s dead former captain. His girlfriend Daisy was watching from the seat of the ship’s also dead former XO. “Richard, we stay here, in orbit above Valhalla. That wasp ship is heading away from the planet. If it were coming back, I’d say englobe the bastard and take it out.”

He sat back in the admiral’s seat that he had first sat in nine days ago. That was when Daisy had asked him why the
Lepanto’s
admiral, captain and XO were not answering their tablets, while meeting with wasp-like aliens on the fourth planet of Kepler 22. His pursuit of an answer to her question had led him to take command of the Battlestar
Lepanto
, to launch a Cloud Skimmer drone and then discover all the senior officers of the fleet were dead, killed during a First Contact encounter with the wasp aliens. The dead had included Rear Admiral Cornelius Johanson, who was the top of the chain of command on the
Lepanto
. With the help of Daisy as the ship’s new Executive Officer, and Richard as his combat advisor, the battle group had survived multiple space battles. It had cost them two frigates, 15 dead on the
Chesapeake
and hundreds more dead on Valhalla. But the 71,000 humans on the colony world were still alive, thanks to the efforts of everyone in the fleet.

The older man’s gray eyes blinked. He lifted a vacsuited hand to brush at his crewcut white hair, now possible due to everyone’s helmets being pushed back. Fresh air was a tonic to Jacob. Richard seemed indifferent to it. Like everyone on the
Lepanto
he still wore his vacsuit, due to the Alert Combat Ready ship status that had been in effect ever since the wasp ships had moved outward. The chief frowned. “Understood and accepted, captain. But I bet one of my Darts could penetrate that ship’s hull, disperse our Marine boarders and capture some wasps and some tech before leaving. Also, the wasp ship is limping along at five percent of lightspeed. Any ship in our battle group could catch it.”

Jacob nodded slowly. The Marine in charge of the ship’s boarding team of 20 Marines and four Dart assault ships had been disappointed that none of the Darts had been used by Jacob during the space battles. The vulnerability of the Darts to concentrated energy beam weapons was one reason. “You are correct. Any of our ships could catch that wasp ship. But half our ships are damaged. Crews are exhausted. Why risk more lives in chasing a ship that may disappear from this system?” Memory of an order he’d given to Science Deck chief Alicia Branstead gave him his other reason. “If the wasp ship stays in this system, maybe out in its Kuiper Belt, well, that leaves us an enemy ship that may respond to future cartoon vids we send them.” He nodded toward where Willard Steinmetz sat before his Science station. “Maybe Willard or Lori or one of Lieutenant Branstead’s algorithm geeks can figure out how to create a pheromone transmitter. If they do, that wasp ship could be a test subject for them. This war began due to a failure to communicate.”

The senior Marine, who had earned a scar on his left cheek when he’d led a battalion in the assault on the jihadist-held capital of Mauritius, looked disappointed. “Yeah, there’s that. Communications with these aliens might be useful. Could provide us with counterintel while helping to mess with wasp morale.”

Jacob almost sighed. The man’s single-minded focus on the wasps as the enemy had been vital during the space battles his ships had fought in two star systems. But as he had shared with Richard, Daisy and the entire Bridge crew at the end of the last battle, he hoped they could avoid further bloodshed. The multiple wasp attacks on the ships of his battle group had been unrelenting. It was the first interstellar war for humans. Whether it continued depended on more factors than Jacob could count. For one, the four wasp ships that had escaped by going out to the edge of the local star’s magnetosphere and disappearing into Alcubierre space-time might return. With lots more wasp ships. Whatever the aliens did, he was committed to staying in the Kepler 10 system to protect Valhalla while they waited for reinforcements from Earth. He’d sent off the frigate
Ofira
to report on the wasp aliens, the space battles and his need for more ships to defend the system. It would take the frigate twenty-two and a half days to travel the 564 light years to Earth, and the same time to come back to Kepler 10. That meant Jacob and his battle group had 45 days to wait before any help arrived. He hoped the wasp home star was further away than Earth. If it was less, they could face a new invading force at any time in the future. He blinked. More worrying over a future he could not predict had little value. He smiled at the Marine who’d answered his call to be part of his brain trust.

“Richard, you were vital to the success of our battles. I value your insight. Tell your Marines they will have a chance to use their Darts, in the future.” The Bridge had gone silent during his conversation with the Marine, which told him the nine people at function stations and Daisy too were paying close attention. “I give you my word.”

The man’s white eyebrows lifted, then he gave a nod. “Captain Renselaer, you led us well. Your word is good enough for me. Anyway, I follow orders.” The man turned away and tapped his armrest to bring up a holo in front of his seat.

Jacob looked to Daisy, who sat to the left of Richard and below his own elevated seat. She nodded to him and turned away to look at her own group of holos. One on her left held a situational graphic of the entire Kepler 10 system. It showed the positions of all seven planets, with Valhalla in the fourth orbital, an asteroid belt at 12 AU and a Kuiper Belt-like scatter of comets and ice moons at 35 to 45 AU. The magnetosphere’s edge lay at 45 AU. A trip that took 52 hours to get there. Another holo in front of Daisy showed a cross-section of the
Lepanto
, its seven decks and the status of all deck operations, from Supplies to Habitation to Weapons up top. The ship’s three fusion pulse thrusters were functioning fine, as were the three fusion power plants that occupied the central core of the ship on Engines Deck. That deck occupied the back half of Command Deck. The circular room of the Bridge lay at the ship’s front end, sheltered by two meters of armor, a layer of water, the inner hull and intervening decks. Unlike the old
Star Trek
vids, no one looked out through a clear plexi window at true space. That was the function of multiple sensor arrays. Jacob took a deep breath and told himself to stop putting off what he now needed to do.

“Communications, give me a comlink with Captain O’Sullivan on
Green Hills
station.”

The 50ish Japanese-American chief warrant officer, who he’d come to know as Andrew Osashi, tapped the control pillar in front of his function station seat. “Encrypted neutrino comlink established. Imagery going up front.”

The image of an Asian male ensign wearing his Service Khaki uniform now appeared on the front wallscreen of the Bridge. He sat at a table in a room filled with flatscreens, radar and lidar arrays and three control panels. The man looked surprised.

“Captain Renselaer! Is there a problem?”

“Ensign Mikoto, ask Captain O’Sullivan to come to your station,” Jacob said calmly, hoping to convey a sense of ease to the man who had watched as starships fought in the black space between Valhalla and its moon, even as his own captain ordered the station’s six proton lasers to zap nuke warheads and plasma lightning globes aimed at the world below. “And there is no problem. Just needed coordination.”

The slim, thirty-something man looked down, tapped his touchscreen and spoke. “Captain O’Sullivan, report to the Com room. Captain Renselaer is calling.” Black eyes looked up. He scanned Jacob’s Bridge before fixing on him. “Sir, the captain has been notified. He is awake. Should be here in a minute or two.”

“Thank you, ensign.”

Filling the space between Jacob and the wallscreen were the nine function stations that ran vital operations of the
Lepanto
. He scanned the women and men at those posts. He knew them all. They had come to know him. And he had learned he could trust them to do their jobs well, to fight with all their energy, and to go long hours on Awake pills without complaint.

The front wallscreen’s image of the Com room of the orbital Star Navy base brought back memories. Three days earlier it had been the first human image he’d seen when his battle group had arrived at the edge of the system’s magnetosphere. It and a single frigate had been the only protection for Valhalla, until his fleet had arrived. The room’s hatch opened and O’Sullivan entered. He was tall, Anglo and had some gray in his short hair. Like Mikoto he wore brown Service Khakis. O’Sullivan stopped just behind the seat occupied by the ensign. His hazel eyes fixed on Jacob.

“Captain Renselaer, what can I do for you?”

“We need help with our repairs. Half our ships have some damage to them, with the worst being the
Chesapeake
. It lost its right side proton laser node,” Jacob said quickly. “Does your station have the repair bots, laser units and engineers to assist in its repair? And in helping with the repairs on other ships of our battle group?”

BOOK: Battlegroup (StarFight Series Book 2)
11.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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