Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service (2 page)

BOOK: Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service
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you, Commander,” Crineal said, looking at him with a warm smile “It’s
comforting to know we’re in good hands.” He returned the commander’s salute and
headed off to check on his wounded flyers.


he exited the bay he almost ran over Major Strieger. “Ooof,” the slim, petite
honey blonde said as she stepped back and gave him a salute along with a smile.
“No need to hurry, Sir. I’ve just checked on the injured pilots and they’re all
being attended to by medical. Lieutenants Bristea and Tyree are about the worst
and they’ll only be off flight duty for a couple of days. I told the docs to
hold them in the med bay for an hour and to let them know they’re excused from
the debriefing.”

would I do without you, Major?” Crineal chuckled as he returned her salute.
“Well, let’s get over to the ready room and talk to the boys and girls and then
I’ll head to medical to check up on the casualties.” He moved off down the
corridor, painted white with blue stripes on the walls indicating this was a
flight area. Strieger was at his side. “Did you notice any issues of concern
during the fight?”

that stood out, but I’ll have to check the recordings. The rebels weren’t ready
for a fight and didn’t give us that much trouble, so it seemed easy enough.” She
shrugged. “But you know as well as I do, it’s the details that make the
difference in a real scrap.”

nodded. A minor mistake in an easy fight might mean nothing; in a tough
dogfight it’d probably kill you, he thought. They reached the ready room and he
keyed the door open. As it slid aside one of the waiting pilots looked around
in his seat and saw who had entered.

General on deck,” Lieutenant Dellerman said loudly. The entire room rose to
their feet and saluted as Crineal and Strieger walked in. He and the major made
their way to the lectern at the front, Strieger placing herself behind him and
to one side. The two of them were rarities in the Empire. Crineal was
considered short for a man at five foot ten inches and he was still taller than
Strieger’s diminutive, for a Galactic, five foot eight inches. Most Imperial
citizens easily topped six feet, not that size made any difference once you
were in a fighter.

returned the salutes. “At ease, ladies and gentlemen,” Crineal said as he
lowered his hand. “Please be seated.” He waited whilst the pilots all sat down.
It still seemed strange to him after all this time that over half of his pilots
were women. But even back home it had been realized for quite a while that
women made excellent pilots. However, social prejudices still clung on and kept
many women out of the military. The Empire was far more broad-minded and it
selected for ability rather than gender, which he agreed with wholeheartedly.
It didn’t stop it feeling odd at times, though. All those millennia of a built-in
social and genetic need to protect women were hard to shake, he thought. “I’ll
keep this brief so you can get some rest, but we’ll hold a follow-up session
tomorrow once the major and I have had a chance to review the flight recordings.”
That brought a few groans from around the room. “On the face of it, your
performances today were good. We took no losses and only minor injuries. You’ll
be pleased to know that the major informs me that the injured pilots will be
well enough to join us tomorrow, though I’m not sure they’ll be as pleased.” He
smiled as some chuckles broke out. “Before you all go congratulating yourselves
too much, let’s remember that we faced an outnumbered enemy that was in a bad
tactical situation. We’ll do the review tomorrow with that squarely in mind.
We’ll meet here at thirteen hundred hours and go over everything. It will give
you all a chance to do your own reviews, and you’ll all be nicely ready for a
nap after lunch.” Crineal gave them all a reassuring grin.

one was fooled for an instant. Sometimes the pilots joked that Crineal’s
debriefs were harder than the battles themselves. They knew they would need to
be alert tomorrow afternoon and not stuffed with food and feeling sleepy.

anyone have anything urgent they need to raise now?” He waited for a few
seconds but no one spoke up. “Then we’re done for today, people. I’m heading to
medical but will be in my office after that for a couple of hours if anyone
needs to see me.” Strieger called the pilots to attention and they all stood
and saluted. Crineal and Strieger returned the salutes and then Crineal
dismissed them. Some of the pilots sat back down to chat amongst themselves
whilst others headed off to their rooms to change out of their flight gear and
into ship’s uniform. Strieger saluted Crineal and left the ready room as well. He
stayed behind for a couple of minutes to exchange a few words with the
remaining groups of pilots and then headed off to medical. Some senior officers
kept their distance from their pilots and usually ended up with very little
idea of what was happening within their squadrons. Others got too friendly and
were unable command effectively. It was a narrow line to tread and Crineal had
learnt from the best. His stop at the medical section was brief. None of the
four pilots were badly injured and all would be at least fit for light duty and
tomorrow’s debriefing session. Crineal sat with each one for a couple of
minutes, asked how they were feeling and made some small talk with them. All of
the pilots assured him that they would be fit for flight duty in just a few
hours and they were fine. It always reminded Crineal of a line from one of his
home world’s classic comedies, ‘it’s just a scratch’, and that raised a smile
for him. Underneath though, it showed that his pilots’ morale was good and that
he could be confident that they were giving their all.

medical he went to his quarters to change out of his black flight suit and into
standard uniform. The normal ship’s uniform consisted of black pants and jacket
with silver trim, and matching calf high black boots. The jacket had a wrap
across breast panel that sealed electro-statically, alleviating the need for
buttons or zips. There were division patches on the upper arms to indicate his
duty post and rank insignia on the collar lapels. The three gold stars that
indicated his rank of general glinted back at him in the mirror as he stood in
front of the sink in his bathroom. Crineal took a few moments to rinse his face
and freshen up before heading to his office to review the patrol records and
deal with all the other administrative details that seemed to require his
absolute and immediate attention. His office was small and plain, containing
just a few chairs and a desk. The desk, of course, was also his data-point and
from it he could access the ship’s computer network. With total electronic data
storage and retrieval there was no need for most of the office paraphernalia he
was used to in his former job. He sometimes wondered if he could put in a couple
of filing cabinets, just for nostalgia, and maybe lose some of the reports in
them somehow. If only it was just his own squadron he was dealing with, then
the admin wouldn’t be a problem, he thought. But, for his sins, he was
Annihilator’s flight group commander, which made him responsible for all of the
squadrons in the strike force. Mostly the squadron leaders handled their own
issues, but the tricky ones all found their way onto his desk. What was that
old saying? Ten percent of the problems occupy ninety percent of your time.
Crineal sighed as he leaned forward again to look at the patrol flight
recordings once more, the holographic screens lighting up his face. He’d been
at it for about thirty minutes when the door plate chimed and announced Major Strieger.
He keyed the door open from his desk and Strieger walked in carrying two cups.
She smiled in self-satisfaction as she noted the lack of drink anywhere on Crineal’s
desk, pleased that she knew her commanding officer well enough to guess he’d be
neglecting himself.

ale or tea, Sir?” Strieger asked him, jokingly. She looked as fresh as if she
had just woken up and then spent two hours primping herself. Crineal was amazed
at how she managed it, and a little jealous, too.

take the tea,” he said and held out his hand. He knew that the other cup didn’t
hold the potent alcoholic ale but was more likely kafe, the major’s preferred
drink. Crineal shut down the screens and leaned back in his chair as he gestured
for Strieger to take one of the seats on the other side of his desk. She sat
down and considered him with her green-blue eyes. He looked tired and in need
of a rest, she thought.

major nodded towards where the now absent screens had been. “Find anything
worrying?” Strieger asked as she raised her cup to her lips.

sipped his tea for a moment. “Minor stuff. Dellerman is still too quick to
break off and chase down an opponent. It’s going to get him into trouble one

shrugged, her blonde bangs bouncing on her forehead. “He’ll learn. He’s still

sighed. “If he doesn’t learn fast he won’t get much older.”

major grinned at him with her generous pale pink lips. “Says the general from
his lofty age of what? Thirty-six?”

put on a wounded look. “Thirty-five if you don’t mind,” and then grinned back
at her. “Still, someone will need to have a chat with him. He’s good but he
needs to rein himself in a bit. Do you want to talk to him?” Crineal asked

no, Sir. I think it would have more impact coming from an elder statesman such
as yourself.” Strieger smiled at Crineal. She had ten more years than he did
but easily looked like she could have been his younger sister. Imperial medical
treatments greatly retarded the aging process. Even sixty was still considered
young in Imperial terms.

put on a sour expression. “Fine, I’ll go and be all patriarchal, see if I can
get some sense into him.”

major looked at him mischievously over her cup. “I think I have a false long
white beard I can lend you.” Crineal snorted. “At least we don’t have any more
patrols scheduled before we make the next jump so we’ve got plenty of time to
get some more training in for the younger pilots.”

nodded. “There is that and then they can have some R & R at the next stop.
I think everyone can use it.”

noted he hadn’t named their destination. “How does it feel to be going home
again?” She watched for his reaction curiously. As far as she knew he hadn’t
been to the planet of his birth since he joined the Space Corps and she wondered
about it.

sat looking into his tea for a few minutes and then sighed. “I’ve been trying
not to think about it. It’s been twelve years since I left Earth. I’m sure most
of it won’t be recognizable to me now. I didn’t have many ties left when I
joined up. Now…?” he shrugged. The planet seemed a distant memory to him.

Chapter Two


was an oddity in the Empire, the oddity in fact. The IWF, or more properly the
Imperial Federated Worlds, had formed out of a group of star systems in the
same spiral arm as Earth but closer to the core of the galaxy. Humans had
evolved on nine separate worlds that were close together in galactic terms, but
in different planetary systems. Their social evolutionary patterns had all been
similar until they started reaching out into space. Three of the worlds
developed forms of interstellar travel at roughly the same time and quickly
found their neighbors. This surprised everyone involved initially, and there
was much speculation as to the possibility of alien genetic seeding. The more
conservative scientific thought pointed out that the planets were all of a
similar nature and were, therefore, as likely as not to produce similar life
forms. In addition there was a total lack of evidence of aliens anywhere. This
came to be accepted theory, although still disputed by certain sections of
academia. The nine planetary systems began to trade with each other and, after
a few minor border skirmishes, eventually formed the IFW, realizing that
interstellar war was far less profitable than a good solid peace. The
individual governments put their heads together and appointed an emperor to
preside over the Imperial Council. His role was defined so as to act as a
balance and to look after the interests of the average citizen. Each of the
heads of the planetary governments became council members along with their
closest advisors. They took the titles of Lords and Barons, with the approval
and recognition of the Emperor, and thus the nobility of the Empire was born.
With interstellar trade now firmly established it wasn’t long before new
territory was sought out to provide more resources for the growing empire and
waves of explorers headed outwards seeking new planets to colonize. Within a
hundred years the number of worlds within the Empire had risen to twenty-five,
and in the next hundred it added another ninety colonies. With these extra
worlds came problems. Not everyone was happy with the current government and
some with good cause. The council appointed governors to oversee these worlds
and, as is usual with humans, they were a mixed bag of the good, the bad and
the downright ugly, not to mention avaricious. Slowly unrest began to form,
some out of injustice, some out of greed and some because a few people didn’t
fit in and just wanted a good fight. The discontent in the outer worlds
coalesced into the Artranus Rebellion, named after the planet it began on, and
for the first time in over two hundred years, interstellar war was back on the
agenda. The Imperial Council quickly passed some budgetary measures and
expanded the Imperial Space Corps from an exploration service into a
fully-fledged military organization. Trying to pin down an enemy over
interstellar distances proved a problem, though, and after a few initial stand-up
battles, the war degenerated into hit and run raids and vicious Imperial
crackdowns on worlds suspected of supporting the rebels. Neither side was able
to claim the clear moral high ground. The Imperial nobles were mostly corrupt
and self-serving; the rebel leadership seemed equally as vicious and petty as
its Imperial counterparts and the unrest dragged on.


years into the war came the discovery that shook the empire’s scientific
foundations. An Imperial exploration ship jumped into an uncharted star system
just outside of Imperial space, further out into the spiral arm, and
immediately began picking up all kinds of signals. A quick scan of the system
showed the third planet to be teeming with life – human life. There were a few
orbital facilities but no expansion to the surrounding planets. This wasn’t a
lost colony but a brand new independent race of humans. The scout collected as
much information as it could about the new people and then reported back to
Central Command. Central Command took one look at the data and promptly passed
the buck upwards to the Imperial Council. The council quickly decided to send a
diplomatic mission to this new branch of humanity. Back in the Imperial universities,
debate once again raged as to whether this new species of human now proved or
disproved alien involvement in the origins of the human species, and they
waited eagerly for more information about the new planet and its history. The
sciences of the new world seemed to be about five hundred years behind that of
the Empire, further fueling speculation that this might be a later seeding of

the last twenty years of warfare and the greed of a large part of the council,
it was considered that the diplomats’ ideal means of transport should be a
carrier strike force, purely as a means of defense, of course. The strike force
jumped into the Sol system, as it was known to its inhabitants, and the lead
diplomat immediately ordered that all local communications satellites be
overridden so that he could make a broadcast to the people of the planet. The ambassador’s
speech was made worldwide to every television and radio set around the world.
Some of the major governments of the world had a little warning of what was
happening because their telescopes and early warning systems had picked up the
arrival of the ships. However, they were all still digesting the fact that an
alien fleet had arrived when the broadcast began.

speech, carefully crafted by the Imperial Council, boiled down to a declaration
of joy that the Imperial Federated Worlds had found another offshoot of
humanity, that it could not wait to learn what the culture of Earth had to
offer, and that it would be pleased to accept the Earth into the Empire as soon
as the leaders could sign a treaty. There was a certain sense of “or else”
about the treaty signing part. The councilors weren’t about to pass up the
chance to add another source of income to their coffers. The aforementioned
Earth leaders took one look at the treaty and realized they would be signing
away all of their power to the Imperial Council. The answer was a resounding “Thanks,
but No Thanks,” and the three major space-faring nations promptly aimed
whatever weaponry they could muster at the Imperial ships.


chaos erupted across the world. The long-awaited aliens had arrived – and they
were us, humans from other planets. Of all the first contact scenarios it was
the most unlikely. The leaders of the world’s religions held crisis talks to
discuss the theological impact of their arrival. And the general population
went into hysterics over whether this was the end of the world or the dawn of a
golden age.

Imperial Ambassador was informed of both the negative reply and the weapons now
turned towards the diplomatic mission’s ships. He made a second broadcast
regretting the initial reply he had received and the shortsightedness of Earth’s
leaders, and then, smiling benignly, he gave a signal to the carrier’s weapons
officer and Washington, Moscow and Beijing were vaporized. The ambassador then
once again invited the remaining Earth leaders, and the word ‘remaining’ was
firmly emphasized, to sign the treaty. The US, Russian and Chinese military
launched everything they had at the Imperial ships. Not one missile even got close. 
London disappeared in a boiling inferno. The Imperial ambassador once more
asked the leaders to sign; this time he wasn’t smiling. The negotiations were
over. The leaders signed the treaty and Earth became the one hundred thirty-seventh
Imperial world. The local date was March 16th, 2047; Crineal had been twenty-one
years old.


he sat there with Strieger, it felt like a lifetime ago, perhaps several
lifetimes. He remembered the hysteria and panic and euphoria all mixed into one.
Now he had no idea what Earth was like. He wasn’t sure he wanted to find out

was still watching him. “No family or friends to visit?” she asked cautiously.

face closed down. “No,” he said shortly. “Thank you for the tea, but I’d better
finish up the review and then get on with some personnel reports.” He sat up
and edged closer to his desk again before turning the data screens back on.

knew she had just hit a sore point, but wasn’t sure what. Perhaps his family
had been in one of the cities that had been destroyed when the Empire had
arrived. She stood up. “You’re welcome, Sir. I’ve got some paperwork to see to
as well. I’ll see you in the morning.” Strieger saluted him and left his office
to return to her own.

waited for the major to leave and then sat back in his chair once more and
stared at the ceiling. He wasn’t angry with her. She had no idea about his life
on Earth, mainly because he never talked about it. And now he was going back
for the first time. He remembered the massive changes as the Imperial Council
sent in a governor, new industrial methods and machinery, and also education
teams to start bringing Earth sciences up to speed. Those first two years had
been both amazing and scary. The world was unified for the first time and not
sure how to cope with it. Society was reshaping itself, and it was sometimes
ugly. Into this cauldron came the Artranus Rebellion, finding fertile ground
amongst the people who had lost friends or family in the destruction of the four
capitals and those who had lost power and wealth under the new Imperial
government. Earth became the newest war zone, and being so far from the
Imperial center, it was one of the most hotly contested. He leaned forward once
more as he shook his head. It was all in the past now; it made no difference,
he told himself. They would arrive at Earth in three days and he’d sign leave
rosters for his pilots whilst he stayed on board and tried to get some rest.
Crineal finished his review, closed down the screens and headed to his quarters
to get some much needed sleep.


following day started early and seemed to go on forever. He did paperwork in
the morning and held a quick meeting over lunch with the other squadron leaders
before spending the afternoon in the ready room working over the battle reports
with his pilots. He managed to have a talk with Dellerman and the young pilot
certainly seemed to be listening, but only time would tell. He finally
staggered into bed far too late for his tastes. The next morning, Crineal
received a summons from Admiral Ken’Rathel. He reported to the admiral’s office
at eleven hundred hours as ordered. Clandad, Ken’Rathel’s adjutant, announced
his arrival to the admiral and then ushered Crineal into the office closing the
door behind the general. The admiral, at one hundred seven years, was old by
Earth standards but only middle-aged by Imperial measures. To Crineal he looked
like your average, fit middle manager, but he respected the admiral’s sharp
intellect and attention to detail. Like most Galactics, he was tall, well over
six and a half feet in height, and his hair was still black and abundant
although elegantly styled. The admiral’s brown eyes held a keen intelligence
and didn’t miss much. Ken’Rathel came from one of the Imperial noble families
and it showed in his whole demeanor, except he lacked the arrogance that most
of them had. Crineal liked him.

saluted the admiral and took a seat at Ken’Rathel’s gesture. The office was
large and well appointed, with tasteful pieces of art from the Imperium
adorning the walls. Apart from the four standard utility chairs in front of the
admiral’s desk there were also several, more comfortably designed, seats around
the room.

General, I hear you ran into some rebels the other day?”

Sir. We got lucky and the rebels ended up dead. I wish all our fights were like
that,” Crineal gave the admiral a brief smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

argue with that,” the admiral paused for a second. “We’re going to arrive at
Earth Orbital Three in two days. Rebel activity in the area has been slow
recently, which leaves me wondering if they have something planned for our
arrival. I see you haven’t applied for any leave and wondered if you’d mind
filling in for the other squadron leaders when necessary?”

could tell that the admiral was itching to ask why he hadn’t applied for leave,
but the man was far too professional to raise the matter. “I’d be honored to,
Admiral. Everyone’s been working hard during this tour and they all deserve a

nodded. “I agree. I’ll make sure you have leave at the next layover, even if I
have to order you to go ashore.” He smiled at Crineal. “We’re also having some
crew rotation at Earth Orbital. Your landing bay officer is being posted to the
Orbital; apparently they could use his expertise.”

sighed regretfully. “I’ll miss Commander Hantos. He’s done a great job. Earth
Orbital will get a fine officer. Any idea who his replacement will be, Sir?”

admiral shook his head. “No, Personnel Section didn’t see fit to give me that
information yet. You know how it goes.” Crineal nodded. “I want you to have one
of your squadron launch as soon as we come out of jump and give us an escort
into Earth. Once we’re docked and have the initial crew rotation and leave
parties away, I’d like you to take out Hera Squadron and run a patrol.”

thought about it. “You don’t think they’ll hit us on the way in but they’ll try
and smack us when we’re all over the place?”

General, that’s exactly what I think.” Ken’Rathel gave Crineal a wintry smile.
“It’s what I’d do at least.”

gave the admiral a nod. “I’ll have Hera out there looking and two more
squadrons standing by ready to launch, and one of the bomber squadrons, too.
Just in case they want to risk any of their big ships.”

BOOK: Crineal Chronicles 1: In Hera's Service
11.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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