Inheritance (Rise of the Empire Book 5) (10 page)

BOOK: Inheritance (Rise of the Empire Book 5)
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Chapter Fourteen

March; Harbinger – Sowir home system

 

Adrian floated inside the Watchtower interface as his fleet exited hyperspace. In front of him was the Sowir home system, with the positions of planets and moons as they believed they would be based on the Consortium data. Then his ships went active with their FTL scanners. The system had six planets in total, with about a dozen moons. The three planets closest to the sun were the smallest, and uninhabitable, as they had no atmosphere. The fourth was a planet with a toxic atmosphere, also uninhabitable, but at the time that the Consortium had last entered this system, it had had stations and facilities on its surface. The fifth planet was an inhabitable one, the Sowir homeworld. It was an ocean planet, with most of it covered in water and only a few small islands speckled about. The sixth was the gas giant, about ten percent larger than Jupiter.

As the Empire’s fleet’s sensors sent a tachyon ping, the space started to fill up from the edge of the system inwards. The fleet had come out of hyperspace on the side of the system where the gas giant and the Sowir homeworld were, as their orbits ran very close to each other and Adrian wanted the shortest route to the Sowir homeworld. He had several plans that included the gas giant, but as the interface started to fill up, he realized that his plans wouldn’t work.

Hundreds of stations started appearing around the gas giant, surrounding it completely, at least on the side that he could see, as the sensors were not that effective in seeing through planets. But he could tell that there was something on the other side of the gas giant. Then there was the number of ships, thousands upon thousands, all moving around the system and its many stations.

He noticed the area where the trans-station was supposed to be, and saw that one of the Sowir’s massive stations was there. He also saw that it was missing pieces, and had a debris cloud and dozens of ships around it. The probes they had sent had probably caused the damage as they’d entered the system. It was extremely unlikely that the Sowir station just happened to be there, so the most likely explanation was they were able to detect the trans-particles but couldn’t yet utilize them. But as they knew that his ship could, they’d moved something there to block the passage, which would have been a herculean task judging by the size of the station.

Adrian continued watching as he got a clearer picture of the system, seeing many Sowir military ships popping up in space in front of him. Numbers started appearing above the representation of the system, but he didn’t really need them; the interface poured all that information directly into his brain.

By his count, there were at least two and a half thousand Sowir warships throughout the system, and he assumed that number would climb to three thousand as some must be obscured by the planets. There were rings of shipyards around the moons of the third and fourth planets in the system, with massive towers reaching from the planets’ surfaces to the rings. Those shipyards themselves were equal to all the shipbuilding capacity the former Consortium worlds had.

“I guess we know how the Sowir matched four other races,” Adrian muttered to himself.

He kept watching as his fleet’s scanners finished, and he now had a clear picture of the system. There were still blind spots; they could see very little behind the sun, and scans behind planets or moons were inconclusive, as there was interference. But there was one strange thing that he noticed. He switched to the virtual image of the system they had made from the historical data they’d taken from the Consortium archives. He looked at it and then switched back.

“Iris,” he called.

“Yes?” Iris appeared beside him in her fiery image, only here she was human-sized.

“Do you see something strange at the gas giant?” Adrian asked.

“I do. There should be two moons on our side of the planet. The scans have detected something big behind it, but it is not where the third moon should be. The other two are missing,” she said.

Adrian nodded. “There is something around the giant that wasn’t there before—a small ring, but there aren’t enough rocks to add up to the mass of even two moons,” he said.

“The two moons were rich in metals; perhaps they mined them all, taking them apart,” Iris suggested.

Adrian thought it unlikely. The Sowir didn’t use metals as their main construction material. And the amounts they could have mined from them would have had to be enormous.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said finally. There would be time later for him to solve that puzzle. Now they had other business. He gave the order, and his fleet started moving towards the gas giant and the hundreds of stations, defense platforms, and ships in its orbit.

***

As the Empire’s fleet neared the hyperspace barrier, their light reached the Sowir stations closest to it. Immediately, the Sowir on them used their FTL comms to confirm what they already knew, since they had detected the tachyon ping spreading through their system. The Sowir might not have possessed the tech, but they could detect it. The Empire had arrived in their system.

They had been expecting them, of course. And they were ready. They knew that it was unlikely that they would win. But they would hurt the invaders as much as they were able. By the time the battle was over, the Empire would regret invading the Sowir Dominion’s home system.

***

As the Empire’s fleet entered its maximum range, it opened fire. Thousands of explosive shells moved through space, targeting the stations and defense platforms, followed by tens of thousands of missiles, half of which were targeting the couple hundred Sowir warships in high orbit.

The explosive shells reached and ripped through the stations and defense platforms, destroying many outright and crippling others, reducing their capacity to defend against the incoming missiles.

The missiles reached them soon after, blowing apart the remaining stations and platforms, as well as destroying the entire taskforce of warships that futilely tried to defend against the onslaught.

***

Adrian watched as his fleet’s attack cleared all of his targets. The other Sowir warships in the system had meanwhile been on the move, coming at full speed towards the gas giant. He saw that if he continued on this course, he would clash with most of the enemy’s forces at the gas giant. Adrian could clearly see that the Sowir wanted to force that planet as the battlefield. Adrian could change that; he had the upper hand. If he wanted to, he could run circles around the system, firing from far outside the Sowir’s maximum range. He was the one who had all the power here.

But that would take time, and he was here to make a point. The Sowir needed to be punished, made to see that they could not harm his fleet. So he would allow them the advantage of choosing the battlefield. And he would crush them in spite of it. He sent out orders to Lighthouse, one of his Vanguard ships, which had the most sophisticated sensors in his fleet. It and its sensor drones were to move above the fleets and get a better look at the system. He then gave the orders to Bethany to split from his force and move around the gas giant from the right, while Adrian’s and the Third Fleet moved from the left. That would allow Bethany to intercept some 700 Sowir ships coming from that direction, while the rest of Adrian’s force clashed with the remainder of the Sowir force

.

Chapter Fifteen

Audacious

 

Bethany acknowledged Adrian’s orders via her c-board and relayed them to her fleet from her flagship, the Mark Two dreadnought Audacious. It had been upgraded with the latest of the Empire’s tech, and at kilometer and a half in length, it was a force to be reckoned with. Her six hundred warships split from the joined force and started on a curved course that would take them around the gas giant and allow them to intercept some seven hundred Sowir warships. The Sowir force was mostly cruisers, and would be easily dealt with by her ships.

Beth watched as the two Empire forces approached the planet, using its gravity to slingshot around on different sides of it. As Beth’s force exited the high orbit of the giant and set a course towards the incoming Sowir force, her Sensor Handler spoke out.

“Ma’am, we are detecting a massive energy signature from an unknown object.”

Beth glanced at the now updated holo and saw the enormous object that had been obscured by the planet—a huge spherical station, 5220 kilometers in diameter, covered with docking ports and weapons, and throwing off a massive energy signature. It was surrounded by hundreds of defense platforms.

Immediately, Beth saw the danger to her ships. “Change course! Get us away from that thing and into the Sowir formation,” she said, just as the massive station and the defensive platforms opened fire.

***

Harbinger

 

Adrian saw the Sowir object before his force came into its visual range, as the Watchtower received the scans from Bethany’s fleet. Immediately, he started adjusting his orders to the entire fleet. And designating the new station on the fleet’s holo as Construct. As he was about to send new orders to Bethany’s fleet, the Construct and the defensive platforms surrounding it opened fire. Thousands of particle and laser beams struck the shimmering fields of the Second Fleet’s ships, but thankfully did no critical damage.

Adrian released a sigh of relief as information started flowing into his mind. The attacks coming from the Construct were powerful, almost as powerful as the Empire’s current weapons. But the fields held, although they wouldn’t be able to take that kind of fire forever; already some of the ships under attack were losing field integrity under so much fire. Recognizing the threat that the Construct presented, he order the Second Fleet to move and engage. That would allow the Sowir taskforce to move around and encircle it, but those ships couldn’t breach the Empire ships’ defenses with their weapons.

As Adrian’s force exited the shadow of the planet, he started getting information from his own ships on the Sowir Construct, and then the Lighthouse gained line of sight and its superior sensors focused on it. Adrian got a much clearer picture; their sensors detected a heavy gravity disturbance from it, which he assumed was why the Construct, already massive on its own, could stay so close to the planet without being pulled into it.

Adrian was impressed. He doubted that the Empire could have built something like that; it would take an enormous amount of fuel and resources just to keep it there. As more and more information kept coming in, Adrian realized that the Construct was most likely built around the gas giant’s third moon and then moved closer to the planet—for what purpose, he didn’t know yet. And the materials for it must have been mined from the two other moons. It must have taken the Sowir at least a hundred years to pull that off. The Construct still prevented most of the deep scans, allowing them only a surface look at it. It was made from metal, similar in makeup to the materials that the Empire used, which meant that his kinetic weapons would have a tough time blowing through all that armor. But he saw no other choice. What he saw was enough to convince him that they needed to take care of it first if he planned on taking the system.

According to what the scans were telling him, the Construct most likely had a firing range greater than that of his ships, and with the amount of power their weapons had, it could present a real danger. The weapons hitting the Second Fleet were not more advanced than those of the Empire; they were just boosted versions of the Sowir’s usual weapons.

Adrian composed and sent the order to all his ships to focus on the Construct and the defensive platforms surrounding it, ignoring the Sowir ships moving to engage. His ships fired their kinetic weapons, followed by thousands of missiles and particle and laser fire. The Sowir Construct started firing its energy weapons on Adrian’s force, and then it opened up with its own missiles. Thousands, then tens of thousands of missiles launched and kept launching. Soon, the number of Sowir missiles dwarfed those of the Empire’s.

Seeing the danger, Adrian was about to order all his ships into defensive formation when errors popped in front of him.

“Iris!” Adrian called.

“Adrian, we have lost our FTL comms capability!” Iris said frantically.

“What? That isn’t possible,” Adrian argued.

“The Sowir Construct is emitting some kind of jamming field directly into hyperspace; we can’t get anything through.”

“Oh no.” Adrian realized what no FTL comms would mean. Immediately, he sent the orders to the Harbinger’s command center, as it was still connected to the Watchtower, and then he disengaged from the interface. It relied on FTL comms to get sensory info from other ships and to send out orders to them, but that connection was also what allowed Adrian to control the 40 drones he had brought with him.

Adrian opened his eyes and jumped out of the chair, running outside of the room and towards the command center. The two wolions that had watched over him were now running close behind him, and all the while he was using his imp to order the backup crews on the Harbinger to take control of the drones via light speed comms. As he entered the command chair, Paul, his Ship Master, had already moved out of the command chair and was issuing orders to the crew. Adrian sat and studied the c-board, which had now switched to communicating with the fleet via light speed comms. It wasn’t as much of a disaster as it could have been. His ships were still relatively close to one another; even with the Second Fleet, the lag was not even a full second. But so much of their missile tech relied on the FTL comms.

The Sowir missiles had already passed the halfway point. Adrian’s ships slowly moved into formation, and their point defense started taking down the Sowir missiles, but at much slower rate than was optimal, as their systems and AIs couldn’t coordinate in real time. The lag was extremely short, but it was enough to hamper their defense when every moment counted.

“Fire the seeker countermeasures,” Adrian ordered.

***

In space, hundreds of Sowir missiles exploded as the Empire’s point defense fired, but it wasn’t enough. The majority of them passed through. Then, the Empire’s ships started firing more missiles, smaller ones, whose only job was to seek out the enemy missiles and kill them. The number of Sowir missiles started to drop significantly over the long minutes, even as the fire from the Construct’s energy weapons bathed the Empire’s ships. But eventually the Sowir missiles started to get through the walls of fire put out by the Empire’s defenses.

***

Audacious

 

Bethany watched as the enemy Construct fired an impossible number of missiles in response to her own attack, but she trusted that her ships could take the onslaught. Then, suddenly, she lost contact with the flagship, and a moment later realized that they had lost their FTL comms. Reports started coming to her c-board through light speed comms that the entire force had lost FTL capability.

Cut off from the Watchtower interface, she assumed direct control of her fleet and started giving orders through her c-board and relaying the orders from the flagship to the rest of her fleet, as her ship now acted as a hub. Her ships opened with their point defense, and she sent out orders for her ships to start firing their new missile countermeasure.

She watched as the incoming Sowir missiles numbers dwindled, but there were still too many coming; she knew that some would get through.

“Incoming missiles from the Sowir taskforce!” her Sensor Handler yelled out, just as Beth’s holo updated with tracks on new missiles as their visual sensors detected them. Immediately, she started sending out orders to other ships, splitting them so that some could meet the incoming missile waves from her fleet’s side. But she knew that it would be too little too late; with missile attacks from both the Construct and the Sowir cruisers, there was little chance that her ships could take them all out.

***

Thanatos – Fleet Headquarters

 

“What just happened?” Fleets Master Laura Reiss demanded in the Fleet combat center.

“We’ve lost contact with the fleet!” one of the aides yelled out.

They had been monitoring the battle in the Sowir homeworld system, analyzing data for any insight that might help the fleet.

“What? How?” asked Oswald Mein, Commander of Fleets.

“We don’t know, sir. They just stopped transmitting.”

“Figure out what happened!” Laura yelled out, and watched as her subordinates frantically moved around her.

BOOK: Inheritance (Rise of the Empire Book 5)
3.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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