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CONTACT - Invasion, Retaliation, Stalemate

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CONTACT Written by MastahCheef117


Dramatis Personae

UEG

United Earth Government


Samuel Acre (Great Britain/England) – Chancellor

Daniel Henderson (United States) – Executive Advisor

Juanito Gonzales (Spain) – Secretary of the State

Alfred Pinard (France) – Director of the Treasury

George van Geit (Germany) – Director of Trial and Jury

Antonio Bartolemo (Italy) – Director of Agriculture

Adam Kowalczyk (Poland) – Director of Defense

Arnold Gustav (Sweden) – Director of Education

Vladimir Ivanov (Russia) – Director of Transportation and Urban Development

Alejandro Lopez (Mexico) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Suzuki Hachiro (Japan) – Director of Commerce

Harry Charleston (Australia) – Director of Health and Human Services


USNC

United States Naval Command


James Reynolds – Supreme Commander of the United States Navy (High Admiral) [USN Sherman]

Kyle Seam – Executive Naval Council Head (Fleet Admiral) [USN George S. Patton]

Hector von Brown – Executive of Naval Justice Affairs (Fleet Admiral) [USN Otto von Bismarck] (German Naval officer transferred to USN in 2394)

Ryan Walker – Commanding Officer of USN 1st Fleet (Fleet Admiral) [USN Anonymous]

John Harper – Commanding Officer of USN 2nd Fleet (Fleet Admiral) [USN Chicago]

Justin Washington – Commanding Officer of USN 3rd Fleet (Fleet Admiral) [USN California]

Michael Reed – Commanding Officer of USN 5th Fleet (Fleet Admiral) [USN Justice]

Preston Cole – Commanding Officer of USN 6th Fleet (Fleet Admiral) [USN Caravel]

Jonathan Faire – Commanding Officer of USN Battle Platform Austin (Admiral)

Eric Nelson – Commanding Officer of USN Battle Platform Seattle (Admiral)

Lyle Pores – Commanding Officer of USN Battle Platform Buffalo (Admiral)

Timothy Weide – Commanding Officer of USN Battle Platform Chicago (Admiral)

Horace Blacke – Commanding Officer of USN Battle Platform London (Admiral) (English Naval officer transferred to USN in 2399)

Oliver Borthem – Commanding Officer of USN Battle Platform Dallas (Admiral)

Thomas Michaels – Commanding Officer of USN Battle Platform Los Angeles (Admiral)

Michael Dawson – Captain of USN Harbinger (High Captain) [Cruiser]

Derek Bernard – Captain of USN Calculation (High Captain) [Cruiser]

Fred Ericson – Captain of USN Vanadium (High Captain) [Cruiser]

Brian Lombardi – Captain of USN Indigestion (High Captain) [Carrier]

Charles Olpe – Captain of USN Arbor Day (Captain) [Heavy Destroyer]

Zachary Kalinikovski – Captain of USN Port Moresby (Captain) [Light Destroyer]

Ryan Salude – Captain of USN San Diego (Commander) [Frigate]

Georgio Zaltsmarin – Captain of USN Staten Island (Lieutenant Commander) [Corvette]


BRNC

British Royal Naval Command


Howard Brenderson – Supreme Commander of the British Royal Navy (High Admiral) [RNV Her Majesty]

George Tremores - Admiral of Executive Affairs of the Royal Navy (Fleet Admiral) [RNV Cavalry]

Taylor Reynolds – Commanding Officer of BRY 1st Fleet (Fleet Admiral) [RNV Grenadier]

James Arnold – Commanding Officer of BRY 2nd Fleet (Fleet Admiral) [RNV Knight of Jerusalem]

Kyle Harrison – Commanding Officer of BRY Battle Platform Nottingham (Admiral)

Michael Geoffrey – Captain of BRY Yorkshire (High Captain) [Cruiser]

Harry Plyum – Captain of BRY Caenarvon (High Captain) [Cruiser]

Max Dean – Captain of BRY Resolute (Captain) [Heavy Destroyer]

Carl Euphrates – Captain of BRY Supreme (Commander) [Frigate]


USMC

United States Marine Corps


Walter Stanforth – General of the Marine Corps (1st , 2nd and 3rd Marine Divisions, USN Otto von Bismarck)

Joe Refodes – General (4th and 5th Marine Divisions, USN Anonymous)

Steven Harrison – Lieutenant General (6th and 7th Marine Divisions, USN Indigestion)

Jimmy Sean – Major General (8th Marine Division, USN Chicago)

Nicholas Walker – Major General (9th Marine Division, USN Sherman)

Thomas Reese – Major General (10th Marine Division, USN George S. Patton)

Kyle Ureka – Brigadier General (11th Marine Division, USN California)

Ryan Taylor – Brigadier General (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Jack Rendon – Brigadier General (2th Marine Battalion, USN Starlite)

Connor Lopez – Colonel (3rd Marine Battalion, USN Calculation)

Eric O'Brien – Colonel (4th Marine Battalion, USN Vanadium)

Michael Hughes – Colonel (5th Marine Battalion, USN Austin BP)

Seamus Pearson – Colonel (6th Marine Battalion, USN Buffalo BP)

Marcus McPolo – Colonel (7th Marine Battalion, USN Seattle BP)

Brian Renderson – Colonel (8th Marine Battalion, USN Dallas BP)

Jonathan Wang – Colonel (9th Marine Battalion, USN Los Angeles BP)

John Frederickson – Colonel (10th Marine Battalion, USN London BP)

Nicholas Gason – Colonel (11th Marine Battalion, USN Chicago BP)

Carl Parker – Captain (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Richard Pierce – Second Lieutenant (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Thomas Yuri – Second Lieutenant (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Oliver Wildeson – Sergeant Major (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Xavier Rick – Staff Sergeant (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Timothy Johnson – Staff Sergeant (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Justin Pinard – Corporal (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

William Scears – Private (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Lyle Undre – Private (1st Marine Battalion, USN Harbinger)

Mark Henderson – Second Lieutenant (7th Marine Battalion, USN Vanadium)

Joe Adams – Staff Sergeant (7th Marine Battalion, USN Vanadium


The Story So Far... It is 2401. The UEG (United Earth Government) is a united group of peoples that includes all across Earth. Mars has been colonized (along with it's moons Deimos and Phobos), Ganymede (orbiting Jupiter) is inhabited along with seven of Jupiter's larger moons. Explorations have been made to Pluto.

Man-made trips to somewhat-planet like rocks out of the system have been made, and an expedition to one of them (planned in 2409) is being researched.

All nations across the world have at least some form of naval transportation and war vessels in orbit above Earth and other man-inhabited planets, the United States being chief in this category. It makes up nearly 85% of the Human naval fleet, from the largest of carriers, to the powerful and troop-carrying cruisers, to the small yet strong destroyers and the relatively weak frigates, forming the backbone of the United States Navy. Shipyards above Earth and Mars and RD (Research & Development) stations on and above Ganymede help increase the USN's power. Orbiting Earth are roughly ten Super-Heavy Defense Platforms (with nearly 30 more being constructed to bolster the shield), most of which under the command of the USN, protect the human homeworld from any sort of danger (a small but increasingly growing Rebel faction has been taunting the UEG), each carrying four Plasma-Tungsten cannons that explode upon impact and cause further damage by eating away a small part of a ship's hull. Not only this, but each platform carries a full battalion of US (and, on the BRY Nottingham) and British Marines, who protect against borders and can be deployed planetside within a moment's notice.

Orbiting Mars are four more under-construction Super Defense Platforms, with the intent of defending Humanity's largest shipyard producing facility (slightly larger than the ones orbiting/on Earth). Also orbiting Mars are 11 Scanner outposts, roughly a kilometer long and a third kilometer wide. They monitor the space in and around the UEG's colonies and outposts in the system (Rebel bases are along the inner Asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt). One of them, the station Socrates, was commisioned in 2358 and is therefore a little over 40 years old. Many of the crew believe it's radar systems are beginning to malfunction. But the crew will soon learn that trusting something old and wise is the best.


==Part 1==

Invasion

Chapter I

The Endeavor-class “Super”-Cruiser was essentially a giant four-kilometer-tall Y with an elongated middle section and the “fork” of the Y being turned into an Acute shape. At the tip of the fork were two Plasma-Tungsten Cannons. In each cannon were two separate compartments, one containing super-heated Plasma fumes, the other containing Tungsten in it's gaseous form. Upon firing, the two would quickly be pushed into a third chamber, where they would be put into a 5-foot thick titanium shell, launching at an incredible speed. Upon impact, the explosion would usually tear a hole in any smaller-class warships (heavy and light destroyers and frigates), and after impact the plasma would continue to slowly melt away at the hull, eventually losing it's formality after several seconds. The powerful starboard and port engines were located at the ends of the elongated middle section. At the bottom of the Y-shaped cruiser was another engine (simply called the “Stern” engine). Along the banks of this bottom section and dotted all along the hull in organized batteries were two more different weapons – Culverin-class missiles and “lasers”, that could lead to carbon scoring on enemy ships and would basically punch small holes into enemy ships. Cruisers and carriers fired blue laser bolts and destroyers and frigates fired red bolts. The Endeavor was also the largest and most powerful mass-produced warship in the US Navy (there were just twenty-three carriers in the fleet, and four of which were Super-Carriers. This mass-producing of the cruiser eventually lead to it being the symbol of the USN and eventually the United Earth Government's Naval Forces in whole, being advertised as Endeavor-class Battleships and Endeavor-class Super-Cruisers in recruitment posters. They usually showed a single Endeavor annihilating a fleet of stolen Rebel destroyers. The Endeavor was the greatest ship in the fleet.

The USN Harbinger was one of them.

The Harbinger, under the command of High Captain Michael Dawson, was able to field at maximum nearly 1,500 Marines, 20 heavy fighters/interceptors and 15 heavy bombers. The Marines could be transported either on Swallow transports or onto orbital stations, then able to be ferried planet [or moon]side.

The Harbinger flew past the orbital Scanner station Socrates at a relatively slow speed. The crew, including nearly 100 engineers (as the station was the oldest of all of them orbiting Mars), 20 scanner observation crewmen and 5 junior officers, the station was in the talks of being decommissioned in four years (2405). The Harbinger was on general patrol of the shipyards and orbital stations over Mars, and was going to dock in two hours.

On the Socrates, the commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Harding walked around on the command deck. Seven of the bridgecrew sat in their seats, looking at screens from right in front of them to ones that towered ten feet above. The entire command center's windows were roughly four-foot thick glass, and occasionally the floor itself was glass. The station also carried a platoon of raw Marines (most of which graduated training less than a month ago). Most of them that had rarely ever left the orbit of Earth had been almost sick for a week until adjusting to the gravity differences (the gravity was roughly .2 times stronger than that of Earth and Mars.

One of the station's scanner officers called out. “Lieutenant Commander, you should come see this.”

Everyone was still about doing their duties, so Harding walked up to the young officer. He peered over his shoulder. Without a word from the commander the officer began.

“We're picking up an object approaching through slipspace. It's about one-hundred thirty thousand kilometers from the inner belt and closing fast.” He wrapped his knuckle on one of the computer panels right in front of him.

“It's pretty damn big, sir. I think we should tell command.”

“Pretty damn big” was an understatement. The thing was massive.

It looked to be about six or seven times the size of a super carrier, which is to say about twice the size of a Super Defense Platform.

If it was an asteroid, how could it get into slipspace? He suddenly realized that when a slipspace hole is opened usually any nearby objects are immediately sucked in. If it came from the Kuiper belt that would mean a Rebel strike force.

Or was it something much more?

After biting his upper lip, the twenty-nine year old leaned back and commanded his communications officer, keeping in touch with standard naval protocol. “Get FLEETCOM on the horn. We may have a problem.”

The Com officer nodded and began tapping commands into his keyboard.

He looked back over towards the officer's panel again. It said it had been tracked but hadn't been sent to the Socrates' since before the Kuiper belt. Could this be a Rebel ship?

No, Rebels had never been seen that far out.

“On the double, lieutenant. Whatever this is, it can't be good.”


Chapter II


“All ships, zis is Admiral von Brown on ze USN Otto von Bismarck. Socrates orbital scanner station has picked up a massive object on the edge of ze inner asteroid belt. All ships are to move to the orbital shipyards around Mars immediately. My AI will be sending you all rendezvous coordinates.”

The message ended. With it came navigational coordinates to the fleet's rendezvous point. Captain Dawson began howling out commands. “Lieutenant Thompson, get us to that NAV point now. I want one-hundred and ten percent to the engines. Lieutenant Newman”, his weapons officer, “Charge up our primary guns. Get our Culverin pods on standby.”

Even though just two Lieutenants received orders, every crewmember in the large bridge – nearly forty people – went to work.

“Sir, Captain, interrogative?” asked Lieutenant Thompson, still tapping commands into his station.

The Captain nodded.

“Why go through so much? It might just be an asteroid.”

The Captain responded with certainty. “An asteroid doesn't just entire slipspace. FLEETCOM has ordered every ship in the vicinity of Mars to move to rendezvous. Admiral von Brown and many others high up in the Council think this is some Rebel assault or worse. They aren't taking any chances.”

The Lieutenant nodded and went back to work.

The ship's bridge was made largely of glass windows, ceilings and floors. Some crewmembers felt weakened because of it – and even though it wasn't the Captain's favorite design, it at least gave him an edge on the field.

The ship rumbled to life as the engines pushed over their recommended limits. “Sir, reactor meltdown in eleven minutes. ETA to NAV point nine minutes.” stated NAV officer Thompson.

“As soon as we link up with the fleet, bring engines on standby to ten percent.” Meltdown of the reactors would mean two things. One, the ship would be entirely immovable in combat, save the emergency thrusters, meaning it was a sitting duck to enemy fire. Two, it meant possible week-to-month long repairs, putting her in drydock and out of any action.

The ship's viewport showed a commanding view of the entire local area. To the left was the northern half of the Red Planet, Mars. Black squares and sections covered the planet's surface – the human colony and it's production yards. Orbiting it about 130 miles above were the primary shipyards, kilometers of interlocking rectangles and open hangars full of in-production warships, fighters and bombers by the dozens, and crew quarters housing half of Mars' Marine garrison.

Dead ahead was a fleet of ships slowly organizing into a tightly-packed group of warships. Already numbering at about 40 ships (mainly frigates and light destroyers, with three Endeavor cruisers and a Carrier), dozens more approached the rendezvous point. Among them were Charles Olpe and Fred Ericson, commanders of the USN Arbor Day and Vanaduim, respectively. Having been good friends with Dawson for years (since High school and before volunteering into the USN), they all had their stories. The three men had all tasted the tang of victory and defeat against the Rebels.

After several silent minutes aboard the bridge, the engines died to a quiet murmur and the ship slowly turned to aft. They had reached their destination.

Among them were three carriers (USN Vanadium and USN Otto von Bismarck included), nearly twenty Endeavor “Super”-Cruisers, twenty heavy destroyers, another dozen light destroyers, and nearly 40-more frigates and several corvettes. Although the fleet was relatively small, it was because of the scatter Navy's position. Most of her ships were stationed at Earth, another many at Mars, and the rest were among Ganymede, Jupiter and Saturn's moons. However, totaled, the USN included nearly four-hundred ships Corvette status and above, mainly frigates, destroyers and Endeavor cruisers. There were roughly 40 carriers in the fleet, but nearly all were reserved for an admiral's flagship (like that of Admiral von Brown). They were nearly three times as long as an Endeavor was tall, making them among the largest ships in the fleet (excluding the three Super Carriers in commission, roughly three times the size.) However, the Carrier's role in the fleet was slowly branching out. Two more Super Carriers were under production (along with five more carriers, dozens of Endeavors and hundreds of Frigates and Corvettes, including nearly 50 destroyers, light and heavy) to increase the fleet's size and capabilities further.

The Harbinger settled in with the rest of the fleet, taking the general direction opposite of Earth and towards the Inner Asteroid belt, roughly forty degrees to the right of Mar's upper hemisphere.

Lieutenant Henderson, the ship's communications officer who overlooked all communications across and around the ship, spoke up. “Captain, we have a signal from the station Socrates, over fleet-wide COM.”

The Captain stood from his swivel chair. “Open it up, Lieutenant.”

There was a short static and crackle as the bridge's speakers initiated. The commanding officer on the station, Lieutenant Commander Harding's voice could be heard. “This is Lieutenant Commander Harding onboard the scanner station Socrates to all ships orbiting Mars. Our scanners have picked up the object again, ETA to your location three minutes.” Another voice interjected, preceded by another crackle and second of static. Admiral von Brown's voice began. “All ships, charge your primary weapons. Take off safety locks vor Culverin missiles, proceed on standby.” A ping sound proved that the Admiral was finished talking and had left the communication channel with the fleet. Harding's voice continued. “Considering that everything in slipspace is warped, we have a new image of the object.” Lieutenant Henderson again spoke. “Opening up picture file from the Socrates, Captain.”

On the fore viewscreen, the largest on the bridge (hanging above the visual glass windows), turned on and showed a picture taken from the Socrates scanning station. On the left were numbers and codes showing the approximate size, weight, length of the object. In the center was the object itself. Now it warped to the current picture taken just moments ago. The black silhouette moved as if it was looking at it from the side.

The Captain was stunned.

It looked to be hundreds of singular objects, elongated objects, spacecraft.

The entire bridge finally became silent, all of them looking at the viewscreen.

Harding continued. “We have quite a big situation on our hands.” Admiral von Brown then came onto the speakers. “All ships take off the safety locks for any nuclear weapons. As soon as these ships come out of slipspace you will receive firing coordinates for your guns.”

“ETA thirty seconds!” said Lieutenant Henderson, even though it was obvious (the fore viewscreen showed the ETA numbers in the bottom right).

The Captain ordered Henderson a new command. “Get me onto the fleetwide COM on the double.”

“Aye, sir. You're on fleet COM.” the young Lieutenant replied.

The Captain spoke freely. “This is Captain Dawson of the USN Harbinger. This can't be a Rebel fleet, we've never seen them with this many forces.” The picture showed hundreds of silhouettes big and small. “I think this is something else. We have an invasion on our hands.”

Admiral von Brown pondered this for several seconds, then spoke. “Captain, you may be right. We must - “

“Captain! Slipspace rupture three-hundred thousand kilometers off our bow!” yelled Lieutenant Thompson, so all listening in on the conversation across the fleet could hear.

In the midst of black space and white stars was a blue ring with a pitch black center. It grew into an enormous circle thousands of kilometers wide, and it spat out hundreds of purple and blue objects.

The entire bridgecrew was silent, and no sounds came over the COM. Dawson spoke. “I'm pretty damn sure that any Rebel ships aren't that cheesy-looking.”

The ships were in all sizes, from a small frigate to a large carrier. Each one, on the banks, red beams began to charge, slowly changing color into orange, yellow and almost white.

Von Brown yelled. “All ships, pick your targets and open fire!”


Chapter III


Lances of white, electric-blue energy shot across space at the naval fleet, hundreds of them. The eighty-or-so ships in the US fleet all fired their emergency thrusters to avoid the balls of what appeared to be boiling gasses. Then, the fleet, the Harbinger included, counterfired, launching off their Culverin missiles, small lines of laser fire and the all-powerful plasma-and-tungsten cannons. The balls of yellow soared at the unidentified enemy fleet, followed closely by the red-and-blue bolts of laser energy and the gray trails of smoke from the Culverin missiles. The enemy ships appeared to take no evasive maneuvers. Suicidal tactics. Or unless they thought they had numbers on their side. A foolish commander.

Dawson watched as the first salvo of their own weapons smacked into the enemy fleet. The plasma-and-tungsten shells hit the enemy ships, almost every one (they didn't take evasive maneuvers). But instead of an explosive end with half the enemy fleet getting tossed like a rag doll with boiling armor and decks, they shimmered silver – and the silver dissappeared. Underneath sat the enemy fleet, unharmed.

Energy shields?

Most of the larger enemy ships did not appear damaged, but the smaller ships were much different. The supposed shields shimmered to a golden shine until there was a pop through space – a vibration. Then the remaining momentum of the rounds sent these ships – about the sizes of large frigates – shuddering, flying a full ten kilometers on average backwards. Part of their frontal armor melted away, showing the beams and decks of the superstructure. Purple, blue and red floors and ceilings shown. Then came the second part of the barrage. The laser beams hit the smaller ships, blasting apart entire bulkheads and blowing open massive cargo doors. And then finally the Culverin missiles. They impacted the heavily damaged noses of these ships, exploding and nearly gutting them.

On the larger ships, their shields also shimmered, glowed and popped with the arrival of the lasers. The Culverins then did their work, punching small but dangerous holes into these mysterious ships.

Dawson's bridgecrew cheered as three dozen ships melted and peeled away from the enemy fleet in fireballs and clumps of debris. But Dawson did not. He knew what was coming -

Close to one-hundred fifty lances of blue energy then made contact with the US fleet. Their slower velocity was something to note – but the lack of energy shields on the US fleet was also to note. The balls nearly gutted any frigate-class ships almost instantly, melting whole decks from the ships. The frigate Baton Rouge was hit along the prow, completely obliterating it's main cannon into dust. The round continued to tear into it's superstructure, nearly bisecting it until cleaved in half. The Endeavor cruiser Tacoma's port energy diffused, overpowered and melted itself, and an explosive blast – the final cough the engine would ever make – forced the ship forward only to slam into another bolt of energy, boiling away at it's central hull. Heat signatures detected the ship was at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The entire crew had to be dead. The bolt sizzled away at the hull until it was reduced into a massive pile of molten slag floating in space.

The bridgecrew stopped cheering.

Dawson opened up the FLEET-wide COM again. “Captain Dawson of the Harbinger. They have energy shields. The bigger ones can completely dissipate our cannons, it won't even scratch them.” Lieutenant Thompson spoke up to be heard over the COM. “But it looks to take a while for them to regenerate.” Dawson followed this up. “Try and send a succession of plasma-tungsten rounds and Culverin missiles to take out the smaller ones. We'll have to coordinate with each other to take down the larger ships.”

Max Dean, captain of the British heavy destroyer Resolute's voice crackled over the COM. “How the bloody hell can we coordinate like this? We just lost a quarter of the fleet. Her Majesty's only cruiser here just got gutted by those bastards.”

Von Brown now joined the conversation. “Prepare for second salvo launch. As soon as you fire, recharge and break off formation. Move to engage at vill.” A crackle indicated he left.

The COM channel ended. Newman then informed him on the weapons status. “Main cannons now charged up, sir. Laser batteries A through D recharged. Culverin pods C-1 through G-5 are on standby.”

The enemy ships' banks began to heat again. The smaller ones began to form into a shield wall to protect their larger ships from destruction. Nearby, the hum of charged main cannons could be heard from his fellow captains.

Von Brown's voice was now heard. “Mark! Open fire! Tear them apart!”

The fleet fired in succession as the enemy ships' weapons turned bright orange. Despite their energy shields, it took a while for their weapons to recharge. Roughly a hundred enemy ships remained from the original one-hundred fifty.

The golden bolts impacted the enemy fleet as the weapons turned a golden yellow. The smaller ships' shields quickly gave way with a vibrating pop, and they followed up with a massive salvo of Culverin missiles and laser bolts. This salvo decimated the remaining smaller vessels. This just left the larger ships, the smallest of which the size of an Endeavor cruiser.

Now the fleet navigated into random vectors to avoid enemy fire. Von Brown's ship – which could fire four rounds at once – instead moved directly towards the enemy fleet, looking at what appeared to be a good-looking enemy capital ship for dinner.

“Move us three-one-zero, keep us facing the enemy.” He scrutinized the largest enemy ship in the fleet, the size of a super carrier. It was a very dim purple, or simply violet, it's banks heating to an intense white. Could his two cannon rounds take down it's shields, while the Culverins did the rest? No, ships much smaller than that could deflect multiple plasma-tungsten rounds – commonly just abbreviated PT – and the shield still held up. He sighed.

“Get firing coordinates for that enemy flagship. I want all lasers charged and ready to fire. Set all remaining Culverin pods to standby to fire.” He would have to launch every weapon his ship harbored to take that thing out – if he could, that was. “As soon as all weapons have charged, give me one-forty to the engines to pass starboard of the enemy ship, at five kilometers.”

Lieutenant Thompson gave him a deer-in-the-headlights stare. An Endeavor five kilometers off a super-flagship's starboard bow? At that close, if the enemy super-ship so much as moved a meter the Harbinger wouldn't have enough time to fire emergency thrusters. But Dawson knew this. Without complaint, Thompson input the coordinates. The engines rumbled to life, louder than usual, being in overdrive. “ETA to destination two minutes. Engine meltdown in half that time.”

Should he risk engine meltdown? He'd have to. If it depended on the outcome of the battle, yes. Drydock for a week or two was better than defeat and possible death. But even then, Dawson's risky plan may not work.

Twenty seconds ticked by, silence on the bridge, most of the men doing their jobs but glancing at the viewport and viewscreens of the battle. The second salvo of enemy bolts slammed into the dispersed fleet, destroying the nearby light destroyer Tallahassee, blowing off it's engines, only to be hit by a second bolt that nearly vaporized the fore section. The Endeavor cruiser Tucson faced the enemy fleet with it's port batteries when the upper wings were punctured and melted apart into slag by two separate energy trails. Also felled was the single French naval ship orbiting the planet, the frigate Marseille, taking a round to the nose. It destroyed the PT cannon and killed nearly half the crew, but it continued on it's suicidal course at the enemy fleet with one-fifty power to it's reactor. The ship collided with an enemy vessel of the same general size. The shields collapsed immediately and the tip of the Marseille blew a massive hole on the starboard bow of the ship, and finally going completely through it, getting lodged and looking like a deformed ship in mid-construction. The two ships were locked together, and the enemy ship tried to fire. The weapon tunnels on the fore were blocked by the French frigate, and completely melted the ship's port side. Just two seconds later the joint ships disappeared in a fireball of yellow and red.

Off to starboard the frigate Memphis was surrounded by half a dozen enemy ships the size of heavy destroyers. The ship was crippled and the enemy vessels were about to deliver the final blow, their banks glowing a ghostly red.

An E-band FLEET-com channel opened, originating from the frigate itself.

“... nearly all of us are dead, just two left on the bridge...” a moment of static came and went. “... all weapons are destroyed, our engines have melted down to nothing. We're gonna … the Gemini onboard, to all in the vicinity of the frigate Memphis, we're … detonating the Gemini nuke onboard to take those bastards with us.”

Gemini Nuclear Warheads were the most powerful weapons on every ship in the fleet above Frigate-class. Their actual blast radius was fifty kilometers, but anything within one-hundred kilometers was also guaranteed a very untimely end.

And the Harbinger was a mere thirty-two kilometers away.

Half a dozen other US ships were in proximity, and almost immediately re-directed course to save themselves.

Dawson didn't.

“Give me two-hundred percent to the reactors. I don't give a good-goddamn if it melts down, I need enough momentum to take this capital ship out.”

Thompson nodded. The deep hum of the engines increased in volume as the engines maxed out to twice the recommended power.

The capital ship was five kilometers away.

The plan in Dawson's head made him give a half-dead smile.

As the nearby US ships evacuated the area of the Memphis, the capital ship closed to three kilomters. Dawson yelled, now or never. “Fire! Fire all weapons! Now!”

Newman nodded. The rumble of the PT cannons shook the ship, followed by the thuds of the remaining Culverin missiles and the screeches of the laser cannons.

The cannon rounds slammed into the massive enemy flagship. The shields didn't even shimmer silver – but a low orange glow, just dim enough as the ship could be seen through. The impact of the Culverins and the laser bolts hit the ship, forcing the shields to shimmer white.

Dawson thought of the French frigate Marseille, it's dead crew and the sacrifice they made.

“Recorrect course; one-five-five by zero-six-zero. Ram that son of a bitch.”

Thompson yelled, his voice cracking slightly. “Redirecting. Engine reactor meltdown in five seconds. Collision in ten seconds.”

Redirecting the ship toward the enemy capital ship was suicide. They would most likely all die. But directing it to go slightly “upwards” (in relation to the enemy flagship) wouldn't exactly spell death for his crew. They would ram the enemy ship just enough to bring down the shields, and then -

There was a massive groan and explosion. On the under-fore viewscreen the lower section of the ship grazed the enemy super-ship. The shields glimmered a golden yellow and then winked out. The groans continued in higher volumes as both ships dealed damage. The sounds ended as they cleared the ship. On one of the viewscreens, they still had the speed as if they were at one-hundred sixty percent reactor power. Good enough.

Thompson talked of the screen, a status report. “Stern engine heavily damaged, going to overload in ten seconds – shutting down. Decks E through H have taken extreme damage, venting atmosphere.”

“Aft camera,” ordered Dawson. The main viewscreen over the viewport flashed to enlarge the aft camera.

The enemy capital ship sat there, crippled. Her shields were gone and some Culverin missiles even managed to get through. However, size was on her side and they did little damage. But Dawson's plan was yet to finish; in the far distance a little less than seventy kilometers behind the Harbinger was the crippled frigate Memphis. On another viewscreen numbers were counting down. Six... five... four... three... two...

“See you in hell,” said the Captain indirectly towards the enemy capital ship, while saluting the remaining crew of the Memphis and their great sacrifice.

All the viewscreens blanked to white. The viewport was nearly entirely covered in a massive ball of white pigment, centered around where the sacrificial frigate once was. The enemy capital ship vanished, engulfed in the nuclear fireball. The shockwave finally reached the Harbinger. The ship shook so violently that some men fell from their seats. The Captain himself had to grab a railing near the navigational screen.

And then the rumbling stopped. The bridgecrew stopped moving and looked around, the fallen ones slowly crawling back into their station seats.

The viewscreens slowly resolved from the blank whiteness from the nuclear detonation. To their rear sat hundreds of pieces of debris, the size of the new enemies and the superstructures of US ships.

“Thompson. Use emergency thrusters, turn us one-eight-zero.”

“Aye, Captain. Answering one-eight-zero on emergency thrusters.”

As the ship burst to it's port side to face the battlefield, the FLEET-wide COM channel opened up. Extreme static filled the transmission, showing the extent of the nuclear radiation.

“Zis is … von Brown. All … regroup around me. Enemy ships … the system toward unknown coordinates. Repeat … remains of the enemy fleet is retreating toward … coordinates. Sending a message … FLEETCOM back on Earth.”

Dawson and his bridgecrew looked through the viewport. Hundreds of wrecked ships floated in empty space. Just about twenty ships remained, among them being Admiral von Brown's Otto von Bismarck.

Dawson told Henderson to open the COM with von Brown, FLEET-wide. “Sir, this is Captain Dawson, USN Harbinger. Me and my crew managed to take out an enemy capital ship, we believe it was their flagship. We took down it's shields, rammed it and managed to get it caught inside the nuke's radius. That might've caused their retreat.” There were ten seconds of uncomfortable static, he didn't know how much had gotten through the nuclear radiation. Von Brown spoke. “Good job, Captain. And, from my position, it looks like your ship needs some help.” After half a minute two remaining ships - the Arbor Day, which had what appeared to be extensive plasma scoring on it's port side (from a glancing lance of enemy fire), and the English light destroyer Yorkshire, which had a damaged and inoperable PT cannon. After coordinating with each other and Lieutenant Thompson, they latched super-heavy extension cables to the Harbinger's fore end and used their powerful engines to tow her toward the shipyards.

After ten minutes of relative silence on the bridge, and the Harbinger being tractored into the shipyards for quite extensive repairs, Henderson received a message from the shipyards' AI (Station Beta, the second of five major inter-connected shipyards over Mars) that was a full report of the battle... the Battle of Mars. According to this AI, using the superior scanning ability of the stations of Mars, counted one-hundred forty-one enemy ships at the beginning of the battle, and, just before the nuclear detonation (which temporarily blinded their scanners long enough until the fleet had left), counted a little less than forty enemy craft. The US fleet had suffered slightly less losses, at the beginning of the battle having eighty-three ships and having just nineteen in the end. So many friends had died... the cruiser Portland taking hits from three plasma bolts and still managing to ram an enemy destroyer-size ship, taking it out. His captain had been friends since the Naval academy... the light destroyer Armistice, whose PT cannon was severely damaged just moments before firing, resulting in nearly an imploding end. And finally the frigate Minotaur was gutted by a single plasma round before being run over by a carrier-sized enemy ship.

Too many dead heroes.

On his command desk, Dawson brought up a schematic of his bloodied ship.

The losses were extreme.

Anything below the stern engine had been completely shaved off, a factor of ramming the enemy capital ship that no longer remained. Every Culverin pod had been emptied on it, too. The magnetic coils in the PT cannons had been fried by the nuclear explosion, disabling them. That would take several days to repair. As for the lost decks below the stern engine, which in fact were unoccupied and were used only for maintenance, at the very least a week. The three Gemini Nuclear warheads onboard were still usable, hidden within some of the thickest armor plating on the entire ship. The reactors had melted down completely, disabling all primary movement, taking it down to just emergency thrusters and being towed.

She wasn't in fighting shape.

Half of the remaining ships weren't either. The Otto von Bismarck's port had been skimmed by a plasma round it just barely missed. Half of the Titanium armor on that side had been boiled off.

As the Harbinger settled into the dockyards with the docking clamps, the bridgecrew slowly started to depart onto the massive orbital station. Soon, all but Dawson was left. He sat in his chair, staring at the casualties list for their own fleet, thousands of men having died at the hands of these mysterious enemies. The United Rebel Front didn't control a fleet as close as this big.

This was something else.

But these sacrifices would not be in vain. These enemies would be hunted down with all the power of the UEG. Chancellor Samuel Acre would demand immediate action. Adam Kowalczyk would coordinate with Grand Admiral James Reynolds.

They would pay for the deaths they had caused today.

Dawson sat up and left the bridge, the doors sliding closed. They would not open for a week.

Chapter IV

The United States Navy had lost thirteen percent of it's entire navy at the Battle of Mars on June 21. On June 29 High Admiral James Reynolds called for a rendezvous of as many as two-hundred ships over Earth. Did they suspect another attack? Dawson's half repaired ship would have to leave drydock and head for Earth at her fastest speed. Her reactor had been partially repaired, allowing a maximum recommended of sixty-percent engine power. Culverin pods A-1 up to D-5 (out of G-5) had been refilled with their armaments. The PT cannons had been repaired to operational status, the ammunition for the massive guns refilled to their max, but the firing coils had only partially been repaired. This meant range was seriously reduced and accuracy was not something to count on.

The superstructure had also been reinstalled below the stern engine, but was still off-limits to all crew without atmospheric suits, without a proper hull defending it.

Over the course of three days on June 29, 30 and July 1, the crew began to move back into their warm Endeavor home. Late on July 2, with all crew and passengers accounted for (700 US Marines who were onboard during the Mars Attack) Dawson ordered the departure from the Mars Shipyards to Earth.

None of Dawson's men – naval personnel and otherwise – had died during the attack. He was truthfully the only ship to bear this fact, the Otto von Bismarck losing one hundred men from a plasma bomb plowing through her upper decks near her stern (bringing maximum engine power down to forty percent), and the San Diego which lost two-thirds of her crew before abandoning ship (the only ship to do so). But the ship was, in general, refitted back to un-qualified combat status.

Generally.

The main cannons were virtually useless unless fired at point blank, which was a great unlikelihood with these new enemies the UEG had to face. The Culverins, if all were used at the same time, could easily gut a small enemy frigate-sized ship in cohesion with laser batteries, but just one. The lasers could handle point-defense against any enemy single ships (their targeting computers were among the most advanced in the human arsenal). Not to mention they, at maximum speed, could barely run parallel to a super-carrier (the slowest ships in the fleet) at eighty percent reactor efficiency.

Embarrassing, but it would have to do. Sufficient repairs could be carried out later.

But the call to arms over Earth had to be answered.

“Thompson,” Dawson ordered his NAV officer, “plot a course for Earth, fifty-thousand kilometers out-orbit. Once we arrive I was forty percent to rendezvous with the fleet.”

Thompson nodded. “Aye, sir. Entering slipspace in thirty seconds.”


When the nuclear detonation above Mars had decimated both the remains of the enemy fleet and their own, three of the eleven main viewscreens (parallel, above and below the main viewport) where wiped out of commission, the ones directly facing the detonation. The flash was so bright the circuits in the screens had overloaded.


After several moments of thought, wondering why he was being summoned to Earth, wondering if the enemy fleet was at all a Rebel strike force, if it was something other-wordly.


With a lurch, the ship tore into empty vacuum and entered slipspace.



To many crew on the bridge of the Harbinger, the fleet assembled over Earth was the largest cloud of black-and-gray ships they had ever seen. But it wasn't for Dawson. He'd seen a fleet of three-hundred ships duke it out over Earth during the beginning of the Second Civil War during his childhood in the 2360s.

Eleven years prior, he had been a Petty Officer with a High School friend aboard the frigate Meriwether Lewis. While on patrol, alone several hundred-thousand kilometers from the inner Asteroid belt, they had been ambushed. A half dozen Rebel destroyers had blasted the lone frigate's engines to bits, and a strong directed EMP wave had wiped out their ability to communicate with the outside and to fire it's weapons. 900 Rebel ground troops boarded the helpless frigate, defended by terribly undertrained naval personnel who barely knew how to fire a rifle, and a small contingent of US Marines. Dawson and his friend, however, knew how to fire a rifle. They had hunted with each other and their fathers from a young age, hunting the prized Roosevelt Elk and Moose, back on Earth. They held off the Rebel boarding action for two hours, until Dawson's friend was killed. He, and the rest of the crew, was taken prisoner. Two days later, this fleet of destroyers was then ambushed by a task force of US cruisers. The ships surrendered without a fight, and the crew of the now non-existant Meriwether Lewis returned home. But Dawson would never fully recover from the loss of his friend, despite both men being awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart (Dawson would go on to receive the latter another time in 2398), scarred by the loss of his best friend. Since then he had been ruthless, barely keeping in touch with navy protocol on accepting surrender from enemy forces. He was cold, calculating and non-regretful.

But this enemy was new. They did not fight like the Rebels Dawson knew. Their frigates had mounted a massive shield wall in front of their capital ships to protect them from harm. The Rebels were not suicidal, they would often fire a single volley and move in to tear the hull apart with high-explosive missiles. The Sidewinder-class Missiles (the predecessor to the Culverin missiles) were now fully obsolete in the US Navy. But they remained in extreme favor with the Rebel resistance. They would only occasionally get their hands on much more advanced, deadly and accurate Culverin missiles. But they would soon be wasted in a fight that could not be won.

Not to mention, Rebel ships could not fire solely plasma. Judging by the size of the massive plasmic bolts that was launched at the US fleet over Mars, it was enough to melt a destroyer-size ship from the inside in some containment chamber. But these ships, even as small as frigates, could fire dozens without harming themselves.

How was this possible? Were the Rebels somehow impossibly ahead of them in this Civil War that had lasted nearly two-hundred years? No, the Rebels, if anything, were inferior to them.

But this was soon going to change.

After staying on the bridge for the fifteen-hour journey, even when the bridge was totally empty, the officers going down to Cryostorage for a quick nap or to go eat or take a break, Dawson would continue to stare into empty space, at the black space that was nothing inside Slipspace. His men would never know what he was thinking about.

They never would.

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