Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service

BOOK: Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service
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In Hera’s
Service

The Crineal Chronicles: Volume 1

 

 

By Raymond L. Jennings

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters
and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real
people or incidents is purely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2012 Raymond L. Jennings

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Other books by

Raymond L
Jennings

 

 

The Crineal
Chronicles

 

In Hera’s Service

 

Imperial Citizen

 

Lady of Glenxanie (forthcoming)

 

 

 

Dedication

 

To my darling wife Brenda, whose love and
encouragement have supported me in this endeavor as in all things.

 

In loving memory of my Mom and Dad, I couldn’t ask
for better and more loving parents.

 

Acknowledgements

 

I’d like to say a big thank you to a few people who
have helped tremendously with getting this book prepared.

First and foremost, again, Kay Hawkins. Once again
she has been a rock and without her I know the book wouldn’t be anywhere near
as good as it is. Thank you, Kay.

I’d also like to mention Olivia Macmillan, and Wanda
Corsaro who have both contributed to this effort. Olivia has been terrific in giving
me advice on improving my outreach and Wanda has given me a second set of eyes
for proofing and editing. Thank you both.

Chapter One

 

As
General Crineal scanned local space through his cockpit window he saw the bloom
of light that indicated the destruction of the last rebel ship. His blue-grey
eyes flicked down to his own fighter’s tactical display. There was no manual
instrumentation at all inside the craft; the screens were merely holographic
projections that lit up the inside of his canopy. This had taken some getting
used to in flight school because of his upbringing; his home planet still used
a lot of physical displays. After confirming that no enemies were left in the
area, he then set about ascertaining the status of his own pilots and their
craft. Local space was clear except for his squadron and the wreckage of the
recent fight. Crineal quickly brought up the squadron status screen and was
pleased to note that although several ships had sustained damage all of his
people were alive and none of the damage seemed serious. He smiled grimly to
himself, it was a shame the rebels couldn’t say the same.

Crineal
activated his comm unit. “This is Delta Leader. All flights form on me and
resume standard patrol formation. All flight leaders check the status of damage
and injuries in your flights and give me a status report.”

As
he turned the Star Hunter fighter smoothly onto a new course, he noted that one
of his wingmen had taken at least one hit. He toggled the comm again, this time
to direct mode. “Delta Three, this is Delta Leader. What’s your status?”

Lieutenant
Perl’s voice came back immediately. “Minor damage to secondary systems, nothing
critical, pilot in one piece, Sir.” He sounded calm and relaxed, indicating
that his report was accurate and he wasn’t toughing out a bad situation. But
then Perl had been with him for a year now and would know better than that.

“Roger,
Delta Three. Keep an eye on that and let me know if anything changes.”

“Yes,
Sir, Delta Three out.”

“Delta
Leader, this is Epsilon Leader. Epsilon Two and Three have taken damage, but
both craft are still operable. Epsilon Three reports minor burns to lower leg.”
There was a chuckle from Captain Argolian. “Lieutenant Bristea says she can’t
feel a thing since the meds kicked in, but she’ll be fine.”

“Roger
that, Epsilon Leader. We’ll see how she feels after another hour in the
cockpit.”

Thankfully,
the other damage reports were equally minor, although one pilot had caught some
shrapnel in the upper arm from a panel explosion. Crineal checked over his
munitions state. The fight had been short and close-range. He had only fired
one of his two missiles on the approach and the rest of the battle had been
knife work with lasers. Not that it had been much of a battle. The rebel
squadron was already depleted when it dropped out of jump above the asteroid
mining colony and less than half a million klicks from his patrol. The Star
Hunters outmatched the rebel Axe fighters, not by much, but enough. They were a
little faster, a little more maneuverable and had slightly better shields. The
individual differences weren’t great but they added up; especially as the
rebels only had seven flights of three craft per flight, whereas in his
squadron Crineal had ten flights each containing four Hunters. The fight had
been short and ugly for the rebels. It hadn’t even lasted long enough for any
of them to be able to power up their jump drives and make an escape. The rebel
commander had been very, very unlucky. To jump in for an attack on an isolated,
helpless mining station and find an Imperial Squadron just cruising past…
Crineal shook his head. The odds were huge; but sometimes it happened that way.
Next time it might be him running into a rebel battle squadron of cruisers. The
perversity of the universe never ceased to amaze him. He relaxed back into his
seat and did another visual scan of local space. It was futile, but he felt
more settled if he just used his eyes to look once in a while. The manta shapes
of the Star Hunters were sleek, black and hard to see at the best of times
without their warning lights on. Added to that, the fact that no ship was
within a mile of another ship and the fighters themselves were only ninety feet
wide and fifty-five feet long meant that a visual sighting was unlikely unless
you were about to crash into one. Crineal slipped back into the tactical
displays and monitored his squadron from there. Another fifty minutes and the
patrol would be done and then they could head home. He wondered whether the
miners would send out a rescue craft to look for any rebel survivors and
realized that he didn’t care. Let them freeze in space.

 

Twenty
minutes later, Crineal hit the comm button again.

“This
is Delta Leader. All pilots engage jump drive power up. Report any problems to
your flight leader. Delta Leader out.”

He
punched in his own jump drive power feed and watched as the indicators on the
drive started to climb. At the same time his lasers went offline. The Hunter’s
power plant was only big enough to feed one or the other. The jump drives took
a lot of energy to work and they couldn’t retain the power charge necessary for
a jump for more than a few seconds. After that it quickly bled away and the
process had to be started all over again. It took thirty minutes to power up
the drives, and whilst doing so, the fighter’s energy weapons were unusable.
Power could be switched back to the weapons and bring them up within a minute,
though. So, unless the enemy dropped right on top of your head, you’d always be
able to fight. Unfortunately, you would also have to start the power up
procedure again. That had been the rebel commander’s problem. He’d jumped in
with his weapons down and found himself within missile range of Crineal’s unit.
If had he tried to run to buy time for his jump drives to refresh, he’d have given
the Imperial fighters a prime missile lock opportunity. With missiles coming in
from behind at a fast rate he would have had to maneuver to try and shake them
free and that would have brought him back into energy weapons range with no
weapons power. His only hope had been to power up his energy weapons, try to
make a fight of it and pray he could cause enough damage that the Imperials
would break off the attack. However, he was not only outnumbered and outgunned,
but Crineal’s squadron was one of the elite Imperial units. The result was
inevitable and brutal for the rebels. Crineal waited as the power level rose
and thirty minutes later he called for all flights to check in for jump
readiness.

As
soon as the last flight leader reported in, Crineal hit the comm. “This is
Delta Leader. All pilots jump now,” and with that he triggered his own jump
control and the stars vanished.

 

A
few seconds later the squadron of Star Hunters reappeared as they completed
their jump. The star field had shifted and they were nearly a parsec away from
the mining station. Crineal immediately fed power to his weapons and checked
the local space display. As expected, the carrier strike force that was their
home lit up on his screen and no enemy ships were visible on the display. But
it was better to be safe than sorry, he thought.

“This
is Hera Leader to Annihilator Flight Control. Hera Squadron reporting in from
patrol. We have four injured pilots and seven damaged ships. None of the
injuries or damage is severe. We’ll be landing flights with injured pilots
first. Please have medical personnel standing by.”

“Annihilator
Flight Control. We acknowledge your status and the landing bays will be ready.
Welcome home, Sir. Flight Control out.”

Crineal
toggled the comm to the squadron channel again. “This is Delta Leader. Alpha,
Epsilon and Theta flights will be landing first. The remaining flights will
land in order except for Delta flight. We’ll have the privilege of bringing up
the rear as always.” He smiled as he heard his flight’s pilots groan over the
comm. They knew that this meant they were going to be in their cockpits for an
extra twenty minutes at least.

Major
Strieger, Beta Flight Leader and his Executive Officer, piped up. “Now, now,
ladies and gentlemen, you should know by now that if you fly with the general
you get all kinds of bonus duties that the rest of us can only dream about.” Her
melodic voice contained a definite laugh. Strieger was his second in command
and he would be hard put to think of anyone he’d had in that spot that was
better. Considering some of the excellent pilots he’d flown with that was a
huge compliment to her abilities. She was also good with the admin work and people
handling, skills equally as valuable to him. He liked her a lot as a person,
too. She was never daunted by his rank and was as quick to tease him, but only
in private, as she was to salute him. He’d found that as he rose through the
ranks the less others saw him as a person and more as the rank insignia he
wore. Strieger, too, had been cautious at first, but quickly saw through to the
man he really was. She was an absolute treasure and he didn’t know what he
would do without her.

Crineal
watched the display as his squadron made their approach to the carrier. The
Annihilator was an Apocalypse class carrier and was accompanied by its usual
complement of escorts: three cruisers, twenty-one destroyers and an auxiliary
repair ship. The carrier itself dwarfed the other ships at ten thousand feet in
length. Its crew numbered over fifteen thousand and it carried four wings of
fighters, one wing of bombers and a squadron of scouts. Each wing consisted of
three squadrons so that, in total, the carrier held six hundred and forty other
fighting craft. Its weapons systems were impressive too, with particle beam
turrets, gauss cannons able to fire large kinetic projectiles, missile racks
and point defense systems. Its main strike force was still its small craft, but
it was prepared to fight its own corner, too. The Annihilator looked like a
huge ovoid, flattened at the rear for the engines and with launch bays on
either side of the ship. The cruisers were much smaller with a complement of
only a thousand and holding only two flights of fighters a piece, but in a
pinch they were capable of cramming five flights into their bays. Apart from
that, they looked like miniature versions of the carrier with similar but less
powerful weapons systems. They were faster than the carriers though and still
packed a punch. The destroyers were only half the size of the cruisers and
carried no support craft. Their weapons were smaller still, but, like all
capital ship weapons, any hit on an attacking fighter would tear it to shreds.
They were also significantly faster than their big sisters, the cruisers. The
final ship in the force was large and slab-like. The auxiliary was there to
provide repairs and munitions for its companions. It was slow and cumbersome
but a necessity away from the core systems, where supplies of specialized
materials could be sketchy at best.

As
the flights started to make their landings, Delta Flight stood watch. Not that
Crineal expected any trouble but you never could tell. Finally, Crineal led his
little band of ships into one of the massive bays, lining up his craft with the
lit markers on the flight bay decking. He turned on his ship’s exterior lights
and extended the landing struts as he gently eased off his speed. Crineal
settled the Hunter carefully down onto the deck and shut down the main engines.
With an ease born of years of practice, he went through the shutdown check
procedure and finally popped the hatch. The flight crew had a ladder waiting
for him. Crineal levered himself out of the cockpit and made his way down the
steps, his flight boots ringing on the metal. As he reached the bottom he
pulled off his helmet and shook his head.

“Good
trip, Sir?” Tech Chief Walyar asked as he saluted Crineal.

Crineal
returned the salute. “We had some excitement out at Zephos Mining Station but
quiet apart from that. Did everyone get in safely, Chief?” he asked looking
around the bay. He pulled off his gloves and dropped them into his helmet
before tucking it under his arm.

“I
didn’t hear any alarms, Sir, so I think so, but you’d have to check with flight
control to be sure.” The tech started to climb the steps to begin some post-flight
diagnostics and Crineal turned away to head for a data-point to check on his pilots.
Running a hand through his short brown hair, his head felt sweaty as always
from being in the helmet for so long. He caught sight of Commander Hantos,
commander of the Alpha Flight Bays, checking his data pad. Crineal made his way
over to him. The bay seemed huge, over five hundred feet wide and three hundred
feet deep, but was actually small compared to the size of the ship it was
situated in. The Annihilator had four banks of ten bays on each side of her
length with hangars set behind the bays where maintenance was routinely carried
out. The flight bays were also used for repairs in an emergency, but it didn’t
happen often. The bay itself gleamed brightly and was a testament to the pride
that the tech crew took in its work area. The decking and walls were made of a
tough hi-tech alloy called DiSteel that was immensely strong and reasonably
light. The alloy reflected the bay lights and made the area seem to glow. The
bay crews moved around his four Hunters with practiced ease, tool crates at the
ready to deal with any problems.

Hantos
saluted as Crineal approached him. “Welcome home, Sir.” The commander had
worked with him for over two years now and knew exactly what he wanted. “Your
fighters are all down safely and we’re starting on the assessments of those
with damage.” Techs were already swarming over Lieutenant Perl’s Hunter
confirming the efficiency with which Hantos ran the bays.

BOOK: Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service
9.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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