Ep.#6 - "Head of the Dragon" (The Frontiers Saga)

BOOK: Ep.#6 - "Head of the Dragon" (The Frontiers Saga)
12.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

End Page

Chapter One

“Captain,” Jessica called as she entered the captain’s ready room at the rear of the bridge. “Mister Dumar has some concerns that I think we should consider,” she continued without waiting for permission to enter.

Captain Nathan Scott was accustomed to his security chief’s abrupt demeanor. She took everything head on without hesitation, which was one of the qualities that made her so adept at her new position. In addition, she had become a trusted friend, as had everyone else currently in the ready room with him, everyone except Mister Dumar. There were still some lingering doubts in Nathan’s mind about the Corinairan commodities consultant turned intelligence analyst—especially after learning that he was actually some sort of Karuzari deep cover agent. Mister Dumar appeared to have the unwavering trust of Tug, the leader of the Karuzari. However, until Nathan learned more about Travon Dumar, he felt unsure about how best to deal with the man.

Nathan glanced at Tug who had taken a seat on the couch. Still dressed in the lower portion of his flight suit, he appeared nearly as emotionally drained from the events of the last few hours as Nathan did. His first officer had already taken on an air of suspicion, presumably in regards to Mister Dumar as well. Nathan expected such reactions from Commander Taylor, as it was in her nature to question and analyze everything. He was somewhat surprised that Jessica seemed so willing to put her faith in Mister Dumar, as it was in her nature to distrust everyone.

Under normal circumstances, Nathan knew he should cut the Lieutenant Commander short for barging into his ready room. The situation, however, was still fluid, and time was short. In fact, Nathan’s hands were still shaking slightly as the adrenaline from the monumental battle they had just concluded continued to fade from his body. Nathan offered no encouragement to his security chief or her analyst, knowing she would continue without his permission. He simply leaned back in his chair—his eyes on Mister Dumar—and waited for them to speak.

Jessica noticed the annoyed look on her captain’s face. “Sorry, sir, but this really is important,” she promised.

“Then let’s hear it,” Nathan stated.

“We must board the Loranoi immediately,” Jessica pronounced.

“And why is that?” Nathan wondered aloud. “She is currently not a threat to anyone. Her main power is down, and most of her emitters are damaged, which means she has neither shields nor FTL, let alone weapons. Hell, she barely has life support.”

“If I may, Captain,” Mister Dumar interjected. He waited for Nathan to nod his approval before continuing. “You are correct; the Loranoi is not a direct threat at the moment. But think as her captain for a moment. He is dead in space and blind. At this point, he must assume the Wallach has either quelled the uprising and will be coming to her rescue, or she has been similarly disabled or destroyed. If the Loranoi’s captain decides it is the latter, he will seek to escape in the Loranoi’s command lifeboat.”

“I’m still not seeing the problem,” Nathan insisted, growing impatient.

“The Loranoi is of the newer line of warships, Captain,” Mister Dumar continued. “Her command lifeboat is more than just an escape pod. It is basically a small FTL ship.”

“They have an FTL lifeboat?” Cameron asked in disbelief.

“Yes, they do.”

“We found no such lifeboats on the Yamaro,” Nathan challenged.

“The Yamaro is of an older design,” Mister Dumar explained. “Previously, only the battleships had command lifeboats. It was considered a privilege of rank. However, as the Karuzari became a bigger threat to the empire, it became necessary to include a command lifeboat on all warships in order to secure the loyalty of the nobles that were facing even greater risks in their service of the empire.”

“I suspect it was also less expensive than giving them greater compensation,” Tug added.

“Indeed,” Mister Dumar agreed. He looked back at Captain Scott, who still didn’t appear to comprehend the urgency of the situation. “Captain, the comm-drone that the Loranoi sent at the start of the battle contained little useful information. It was probably little more than an announcement that the Darvano system had declared its succession from the empire and that they were going to battle. Even if they had transmitted their action telemetry to that point, they would have seen only a few jumps on your part—enough for the Ta’Akar to recognize the jump drive’s existence, but not enough to determine its true capabilities, let alone your battle tactics. If the Loranoi’s captain and his command staff escape and make it back to Takara, the entire imperial fleet will soon know of your tactics and will be prepared to counter them.”

“I see your point,” Nathan conceded, “but I’m not sure I want to risk a boarding party just yet. Couldn’t we just park some fighters around her and intercept her command lifeboat if they launch it?”

“Put yourself in her captain’s shoes,” Mister Dumar continued. “After seeing what the Aurora is capable of, you would take measures to avoid capture.”

“Like going FTL immediately after launch,” Jessica interrupted.

“And taking a different route home,” Cameron added, “maybe even doing multiple FTL hops, just to cover your tracks.”

Nathan sighed. “We should have cracked that ship wide open when we had the chance.”

“No,” Mister Dumar insisted, “that ship has only been on patrol for a few months, which means her command staff probably has firsthand knowledge of the current state of the Empire. And if her captain is well connected within the Ta’Akar nobility…”

“He could know even more,” Tug interrupted, “fleet strength, ship positions, maybe even the ZPED upgrade schedules.”

“Wouldn’t that information be compartmentalized?” Jessica asked.

“Yes, but you would be surprised at how much the upper levels of nobility discuss such things,” Mister Dumar insisted. “It’s a matter of pride with them, as if knowing something the other does not proves you are of higher status.” Mister Dumar shook his head. “They are an arrogant bunch, both intelligent and ignorant at the same time.”

Nathan considered Mister Dumar’s words, as well as those of everyone else in the room. He remembered the last time the Aurora had sent a boarding party to an enemy ship. That had been just outside of the Sol system after doing their first test jump out from the orbit of Jupiter. After destroying the first Jung gunship, Captain Roberts had severely crippled the second gunship. He had then decided to board the disabled ship. That had not turned out well, as the crew of that gunship had purposefully overloaded their anti-matter reactor in a desperate effort to destroy the Aurora along with their own ship. That explosion had led to their super-jump all the way to the Pentaurus cluster, over a thousand light years away from Earth.

That had been several months ago, but the moment still haunted him. He had been at the helm at the time and had always wondered if he had made some small error, or if some tiny delay on his part had made the difference that had hurled them so far from home. The idea that the Jung might have been tipped off about the jump test—an idea that had only come to him later—also haunted him.

Nathan contemplated their situation. They had suffered considerable damage during the battle to defend the Darvano system, but they were still space-worthy and ready to fight. Unfortunately, the Darvano system’s primary planet, Corinair, had been bombarded once again, and they had lost all contact with Corinari Military Command. He had no doubt that the situation on Corinair was once again chaotic and that soon the crew of the Aurora would need to do what they could to help. At the very least, they needed to reestablish contact with their new allies.

As much as he didn’t like the idea of a risky boarding action, he agreed it had to be done. “Any idea how we’re going to get on board?” he asked Jessica.

“The Corinari brought breach boxes with them,” Jessica stated.

“Breach boxes?” Nathan wondered.

“They clamp onto the hull of a ship to create a pressurized seal,” Mister Dumar explained. “The ones used by the Ta’Akar have plasma cutters that can usually breach most hulls in a relatively short amount of time. However, the ones used by the Corinari are somewhat older and are most effective when placed over an existing hatch.”

“And the Corinari brought these breach boxes with them?” Nathan asked, somewhat surprised.

“I thought they might come in handy,” Cameron defended. “Since we had no idea how the battle might progress, I wanted to be ready for every possible contingency.”

“How many of these things did they bring?”

“Six of them,” Cameron answered.

“I suggest we use them all,” Jessica stated. “With their sensors down, they won’t even know we’re out there. If we crack them open from all sides at the same time, they won’t have a chance.”

“Perhaps,” Nathan agreed, “but I’d prefer not to commit all our boxes at once. We still don’t know what resources will be available to us from Corinair. Hit them with three boxes: forward, amidships, and aft. Their command, control, and engineering should be your priorities.”

“That’ll work,” Jessica agreed. “We can put two teams through the amidships box, send them forward and aft. That way we can box them in on both ends and prevent them from reinforcing either side.”

“Do we have any idea of the internal layout of the Loranoi?” Cameron asked.

“I believe I can be of some assistance with that,” Mister Dumar promised.

“Very well,” Nathan said. “Let’s get it done.”

“Yes, sir,” Jessica answered, turning to exit along with Mister Dumar.

“Lieutenant Commander, if you’ll remain a moment,” Nathan asked. “Tug, will you and Mister Dumar draw up a basic layout of the Loranoi for us?”

“As you wish, Captain,” Tug promised, rising to follow Mister Dumar out of the ready room.

Nathan waited a moment for Tug and Mister Dumar to exit the room and get out of earshot, gesturing for Cameron to remain as well. “Jess, I want you to lead the boarding teams.”

“Yes, sir,” she responded, although she was unsure why. “Is there a problem I should know about?”

“The Corinari just had their homeworld bombarded again, and we’ve lost all contact. Naralena already reported that communications signals coming from the surface indicate that conditions on the planet are chaotic and unorganized. Things down there may be even worse than after the Yamaro’s attack.”

“And you’re afraid the Corinari will be looking for revenge?”

Nathan didn’t answer.

“Sir, I don’t see them popping off like that,” Jessica defended. “They’re far too disciplined to…”

“Nevertheless,” Nathan interrupted, “I’d prefer that you lead the team that goes after the nobles. We need their intel, understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Jessica answered, becoming slightly more rigid and formal in her stance and tone.

“Good luck, Lieutenant Commander.”

“Thank you, sir,” she responded as she turned to exit.

“I hope this works,” Cameron stated after Jessica left the room. “You know they’ve got to be expecting it.”

“Yeah, the thought had crossed my mind,” Nathan admitted. “Have the CAG park some of his fighters nearby with orders to disable any pods or lifeboats that try to get away.”

“Yes, sir,” Cameron answered, also rising to leave.

“And tell Prechitt to get a flight to Corinair. I want to know what’s happened to Corinari Command.”

Cameron nodded and exited the room, leaving Nathan alone. He raised his hands up in the air in front of him. While they had been resting on the desk, they had not been shaking. When he held them up in the air, they began to shake once again, although not as much as before. He knew that, once the adrenaline was completely gone from his system, an overwhelming fatigue would soon follow. That was something that he needed to avoid, as there was still far too much work to do. He reached down, opened up a drawer in his desk, and pulled out a bottle of stimulants, popping two of the stims in his mouth and swallowing hard. He didn’t much care for the use of artificial stimulants, as they only delayed the inevitable crash that he knew was coming. At the moment, however, he had little choice.

* * *

“Senior Chief!” Jessica hollered, trying to be heard over the flurry of activity in the Aurora’s main hangar bay.

Marcus looked about, trying to determine who had called him. It had been a woman’s voice; of that he was sure. His eyes grew wide and a look of surprise washed over him when he realized that the only female around that could be calling him was Lieutenant Commander Nash.

“Yeah, dumbass! I’m calling you,” she bellowed.

“You called me Senior Chief,” Marcus said with surprise. “You sick or something?”

“Don’t push it!” Jessica warned as she approached. “You got those breach boxes loaded?”

“Yes, sir,” Marcus assured her. He turned and pointed to the top of the three Corinari troop shuttles. “They’re mounted on top of the shuttles, over the topside hatch. They have wireless remotes inside.”

BOOK: Ep.#6 - "Head of the Dragon" (The Frontiers Saga)
12.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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