Authors: David Buck
Part Three, Fleet Action
Book Two of the Carinae Sector series
by David Buck, 2013
The author assumes copyright and all rights relating to this publication. All characters depicted are fictional and the story line is a work of fiction.
The novel is written in Commonwealth English.
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This novel is dedicated to my father Robert Buck.
Cover design by Luke Harris from Chameleon Print Design.
Part three Fleet Action
Admiral Baunrus seethed in anger as he paced the bridge of his flag ship. The recent human ambush had come as a surprise after many days of the human fleet fleeing his armada. He knew the local knowledge of the humans had made the ambush possible because the two hyper jump locations were very close to one another in Tau Ceti star system.
Baunrus was aware he had become complacent since the earlier pair of ambushes the humans had sprung on the long journey back to their home world. He had earlier been forced to follow the human fleet in wild chase through adjoining systems, rather than drive past them and attack their home world directly. The admiral next sombrely considered the two groups of damaged ships he could see on the main view screen, for he still wanted to attack Earth. To avoid another potential ambush the admiral had been forced to move his armada a few million kilometres away from the hyper jump points.
Baunrus knew that the first group of fourteen ships would not be quickly leaving the Tau Ceti star system as their main engineering sections were heavily damaged. The second larger group of sixteen ships had a far more vexing problem, for their forward sections, especially their point defence weapons were badly damaged. The final item of news was that Commander Neanres was still overdue with the reinforcements. Baunrus was really worried at this point as the armada was now well below the two hundred ships he had set aside as his minimum force needed to take Earth. He noted that the bridge crew were still focussed on their tasks despite many hours of being on duty and his own stomach rumbled in protest as well. The admiral issued a series of rapid fire orders as he made his decisions known to the bridge.
‘The smaller group of ships will be remaining here to guard our retreat location with the lives of their crews if necessary. The second group of ships will take up location in the rear as emergency reserves despite their existing battle damage. We will wait another four hours for Commander Neanres to arrive before we leave to defeat the humans…’
The admiral was about to order his bridge to go off duty, but the tactical officer spoke loudly across the bridge.
‘Admiral Baunrus, the reinforcements led by Commander Neanres have just appeared nearby from hyper space. There are ninety frigates present and the two special heavy lifters are also with the frigates.’
Baunrus eyed the lieutenant wearily with half an eye to dressing him down, but instead he asked for a video line to be established to Commander Neanres. After brushing green dander from his fur in impatience for a few moments, the screen came online with the younger features of Neanres, and the admiral spoke curtly to the junior officer.
‘Commander Neanres, you are delayed in your arrival here and I trust you have a valid explanation. I am very relieved to see at least that the reinforcements are intact, especially the two lifters.’
Neanres gave a full bow and waited for a moment to ensure that the admiral had finished speaking before he replied.
‘Admiral, the Barus squadron shadowed us here but would not engage us, and we eventually lost them. There is also a small human squadron of five ships that fled away from us on two separate occasions. These human ships include two Trader sneak ships crewed by human volunteers from their remote colony. Lone Sspol cruisers and Cephrit scouts shadowed us on separate occasions as well. We also recovered message probes with disturbing news...’
Admiral Baunrus soon got to know of the earlier presence of the Fenshilla at the former Dradfer colonies and their later battle with a Trader flying wing. The admiral was relieved that the Trader wing had been driven away as the power of these ships was exception. The presence of the human marines in the Gold system was only a minor concern at this stage. He was well satisfied with the explanation as he showed in his next words to Neanres.
‘Commander Neanres, you have performed credibly in ensuring the survival of the reinforcements. I have ongoing concerns about the performance of my other officers, so I hereby promote you to captain immediately. Commander Feunrus has been killed, so you are to be my second in command but will still serve on your own frigate.’
Admiral Baunrus knew that most of his other commanders had seniority over Neanres but he could not care less as he now spoke at length.
‘The Cephrit are no doubt now securing the former Dradfer colonies and that means they are unlikely to arrive to help the humans in time. The Traders are also unlikely to be a problem and I am not worried about the Fenshilla. We have seen no Maveen though the Sspol remain a small concern. We will organise the armada to leave in four hours after we have a rest, and Captain Neanres I have special orders for you with your own task force.’
The armada and the smaller fleet formed up at some distance from one another, and both began to approach the hyper jump point leading to Earth. Across the Tau Ceti system, Mark Hammond watched the latest Jerecab ships to arrive with a great deal of suspicion. He had earlier dispatched a scout ship to Earth via the Epsilon Eridani system after he established the Jerecab admiral was waiting for something. He considered that the second grouping of ships was significant for some reason, but he knew that the time to warn Earth further had now passed. After four hours the bulk of the Jerecab ships left for Earth and Mark turned his attention to the obviously damaged frigates that had been left behind.
Admiral Mary Neilson stood up from her command chair as she considered the latest communications from Earth. Already there were reports of civil unrest as the actual size of the Jerecab armada became widely known. Also she had more immediate problems in that the world council were voting later today on overruling her emergency powers. The shrill voices of condemnation had reached fever pitch as the civilian authorities panicked when the Jerecab admirals’ threats were understood.
The news from Lieutenant Commander Griggs was almost an anti climax as he calmly reported on what he had just detected.
‘Admiral, the Jerecab had arrived out near the orbit of Neptune about two hours ago. There appears to be the armada itself of close to two hundred ships and another section of ships about half of the size of the armada.’
Mary felt alarm as she took in the numbers of enemy ships, for it was almost as if they were back at square one in defending the Earth. Odds of more than four to one were tight already before the second group of Jerecab ships were considered. She had ten new destroyers awaiting her command at the moon; however she knew that their commanders and crews were unproven. Hopefully she could address this by sending some of her experienced officers across if they had time.
A series of active scans, now over two hours old, from the Jerecab armada’s powerful electronics systems raced past her ships, but her crew were now accustomed to this technology. Mary noted once again the position of her fleet; now slowing down and soon to be crossing the orbit of Jupiter. The admiral only felt partial relief as John Griggs now confirmed the numbers of Jerecab frigates.
‘The armada has around one hundred and ninety ships, with many ships showing signs of damage. The other fleet has ninety frigates that all appear to be undamaged and these ships are closely guarding those two larger lifters.’
Mary was already thinking that the presence of the Jerecab lifters could be very unpleasant as Gindane appeared on the view screen and began to speak.
‘Admiral Neilson, the Jerecab will be performing a split attack on your world. The armada will likely engage you at the moon and their other ships will guard those lifters as I am certain they are missile carriers.’
Mary fought to remain calm as she considered that their defences would be quickly stretched to breaking point by this type of attack. She looked over the schematic for the Earth and moon system, before sending on Gindane’s comments and her own advice to Captain Robert Seville.
Captain Neanres could not believe what he was seeing on the sensor screen he had taken over from an alarmed lieutenant. His task force was closer than the armada to the outermost larger planet, the one the humans called Neptune. He paused for mere moments as he replayed the last set of orders from his admiral.
‘Neanres as you are now second in command and you may use your own discretion in tactical matters. I still retain final authority in strategic issues, such as the decision to attack the humans in this system. Now the lifters must be protected at all costs otherwise our cause is lost…’
The captain had been by habit wishing for orders from a superior, but Admiral Baunrus was still preoccupied with the deployment of his own ships near the hyper drive point. Neanres looked at what the first active scans were telling him about the ice giant, before glaring around his bridge at his junior officers as he gave an urgent order.
‘I want the whole task force to paint the planet Neptune with active scans immediately for we are detecting traces of large ships.’
The active scans raced out as the ninety ships swung around in unison on their long axis to target Neptune. The planet was only fifteen light minutes away and Neanres’s fears were soon confirmed. The captain wasted no time in contacting Admiral Baunrus, who was still supervising the efforts of several frigates as they released smart mines.
‘Admiral, we have detected a Sspol colony platform and at least four of their cruisers in the atmosphere of Neptune. I think we should neutralise them before we attack the humans as they could possibly attack us shortly.’
Admiral Baunrus could see the logic of the changed circumstances and a feral grin of savagery crossed his whiskered face as he replied.
‘Captain you are correct in you assessment and we attack immediately. We cannot let the Sspol come to the aid of the humans.’
The combined forces of the Jerecab now turned and made their way towards the nearby planet of Neptune.
Greppun looked at his screen in shock as the active scans of the Jerecab detected the Sspol colony. Captain Hallime was quick to respond and issued only three orders.
‘All ships are to immediately release the platform and head for orbit. The platform is to descend under remote control and is considered to be expendable at this point. Captain Phebbin you will have to keep cruiser four up with the other ships to the best of your abilities.’
The five cruisers undocked from the platform and now raced for the safety of space.
Captain Hallime was already monitoring the time and distance calculations, and Cadet Greppun could tell that the older Sspol was very concerned about the approaching Jerecab armada. The captain now took on a tone of quiet calculation as he gave further orders.
‘We will try to bluff our way past this armada. I want all the neutrality and non aggression clauses transmitted out towards the Jerecab. Also I want all weapons to be set to fire only manually as we will not initiate hostilities.’
A subdued and worried mood settled across the Sspol on the command bridge as their cruiser led the others towards space. Greppun noted that already cruiser four was falling behind as it laboured along under reduced power behind the other cruisers. The cadet wondered if he would ever see his father again as he paid close attention to what his forward scanners were telling him about the approaching Jerecab ships.
Admiral Neilson was considering the surprise news of the Jerecab course change for Neptune, when the view screen came alive again with Gindane. Mary bowed politely as the Barus researcher began to speak hurriedly.