Authors: A.D. Bloom
Tags: #space, #military scifi, #space war, #warships, #scifi action adventure, #military science fiction scifi space aliens, #space action adventure, #war action adventure, #military scifi action, #military science fiction series
Already, more contacts
blinked on the NAV and the AT controller's display. "Three
coming around the limb of the planet behind us and pushing into
"If they're trying to
surround us," Dana said, "they're going to have to do better
Harry Cozen ground the
truth out for her with the gravel of his voice. "They don't
actually have to surround us, you see, because we can't run.
then the Squidies will follow us into the hypermass transit and
simply push forward with their offensive before Earth can react to
any warning we bring. Our only hope is to delay these ships and
send warning ahead. We're not going anywhere. I think the Squidies
already know that. Those three destroyers aren't maneuvering to
leaving. They're scrambling to stop our breaching ship,
the one that's
is going to run and warn the fleet while
delays the alien
battlegroup. Mr. Bolo," Cozen said, "form up a fighter and junk
"How many fighters?"
"All of them."
Dana thumped the side of the NAV console
before she knew she'd done it. "What about the boarding parties on
the Dreadnought? Ram Devlin and Lucy Elan are expecting close air
support from those fighters. The junks can't do it. They can't
dodge the Dreadnought's guns. Without that air support the boarding
parties can't hold out!"
new contacts," Bolo said. "Near
the first moon..." He pointed to a lump on the display shaped like
a rocky bean orbiting fast around the ringed planet. A handful of
new contacts flashed over it like fireflies and disappeared. "Might
be a reflection of some kind... LiDAR glitch."
"And it might not be,"
Cozen said. "The Squidies wouldn't assemble a battle group without
some fighters and if there's any chance of alien fighters lurking
out there, then the Lancers are staying with
until she breaches space
and transits out of the system."
"What about all of our
people on the Dreadnought? We can't just abandon them!" Dana wanted
Harry Cozen to run his hands over his face or to knot his brow or
sigh or somehow express this was a difficult decision for him, but
he didn't. It
a difficult decision – not for him it wasn't. Her face
flushed with frustration. Her ears burned. "At least send Ram a
single flight of Lancers. We can spare four Bitzers, can't
"Two," Cozen said. "We can spare him two.
Our XO and Lucy Elan will have to make due with limited cover for
now. I have every confidence in the men and women on the hull of
"This wasn't the plan," Dana said. "They
need that support!" Bolo shot her a glance then. She knew he was
trying to shut her up for her own good, but just like Bolo, she
wasn't comfortable with an order like that and she didn't want to
pretend to be.
Harry Cozen's eyes focused
on the empty air in front of him, but when he spoke, his voice went
to every corner of
and into the helmet of every man and woman in
every junk and fighter and turret. He said, "Now hear
has discovered an alien spearhead being assembled in secrecy.
It is a dagger pointed at humanity's heart. We will not abandon our
forces fighting on the hull of the Dreadnought. But... Fortune has
blessed us with an opportunity to halt the alien counter-offensive
before it starts and we must now pursue
as our primary mission. Should
this alien spearhead arrive in our home system before Earth forces
can reposition, then it could break through current defenses and
strike at Earth itself. We cannot allow this. If the fleet can be
warned of this alien armada forming upon its doorstep, then there
is still time to maneuver our forces and trap it.
space and return through the Altair-Barnard Transit to warn the
and her air group will remain and delay the Squidies. Prepare
to vent atmo for combat. That is all."
By the time the AGC called out to
Lancer 3-3 and 3-4, every pilot in the
strained at the leash. Just sitting in their cockpits and
looking out at the ringed planet didn't provide enough for their
brains to chew on.
The synthetic hormone Dirty made and dosed
them with had driven Jordo's brain to a level of hyper-awareness
and concentration he'd never experienced before, but all he could
do with it sitting in that damn bay was look out at the alien
warships rising from the planet's pole. He pictured flying his
Bitzer right through the Squidies' armada. He could almost see the
perfect path. It twisted through the alien cruisers' fields of fire
and looped 'round their long hulls like a ribbon or a thread.
"This is AGC Bolo. Lancer 3-3 and Lancer 3-4
launch for close air support on the Dreadnought."
"What about the
of us?" Dirty said, "We gotta
"They're serving up the best pilots
first." That was Hardy's explanation. He was Lancer 3-3 and he
blasted out of the bay with a combat woodie and Lancer 3-4, aka
Shotz on his wing. Jordo and the rest of the Lancers watched with
envy as the pair turned on their jets and hooked over
topside and passed out of
"Hardy and Shotz?" Paladin griped on
private comms, "Why the hell do
get to go?"
Dirty said, "They
' sent me an' Holdout."
Holdout jiggered her Bitzer from side to
side on its maneuvering jets so fast that the maintenance crew
pointed at her through the launch bay's viewports. "Stop showing
off," Jordo told her. "The redsuits are watching."
"Probably betting how long it's going to
take her to slam into my 151," Paladin said.
"I ain't gonna' mess this up," Holdout said.
"And you know it."
Ten seconds later, Bolo came back on comms.
"All junks, all remaining fighters launch. Scramble, scramble.
Torpedo Flight 3 and Gunnery 6 form up with the Lancers. Together,
your callsign is now Banjo. Repeat: TF3... G6.., and 133rd, you are
now callsign Banjo. Acknowledge."
and TF3 acknowledge."
and GF6 acknowledge."
"Lancer 1-1 acknowledges."
"All Banjo elements will escort the
location Alpha where she will exit the Altair system.
From there, Banjo junks will accompany
and warn the
fleet. The 133rd will proceed on the original mission to provide
air support for our people on the face of the Dreadnought.
Your dedicated channel is six-nine, but don't expect to be
able to cut through the Squidies' jamming unless you're right on
top of each other.
going to blast a hole for you to escape. After that, you'll
be on your own."
The junk flights chattered in the
background as Jordo thumbed squadron comms, "Lancers, we are
finally cleared to launch. Turn two hundred meters out and make
Go Go GO!"
They blasted out past the 50-meter junks slowly launching from the
adjoining bays, and Jordo said, "Hit the big red buttons, Lancers.
Put those Bitzers in war-mode."
"I never get used to this part," Paladin
said from Jordo's 4 o'clock.
"You're gonna love it today," Dirty said as
she swung in next to him. She said something else, too, but Jordo
didn't hear it after he hit the button and enabled the pulse-pinch.
The inertial negation system energized its coils and when it did,
it felt like every cell in his body moved with the pulses of
gravity that switched on and off ten-thousand times a second. It
wasn't good for him, but he imagined the Squidies would probably
kill him long before his plane did. Besides, without the
pulse-pinch to throw artificial gravity, the inertial g-forces of
exo-atmospheric fighter combat would turn him to a wet,
densely-packed mass of cells and bone chips.
Paladin, Dirty, and Holdout stayed
close on his wing as he rocketed towards
with two more flights of Lancers
behind him. The spindly, completely unarmored breaching ship with
her 375-meter 'wheel and axle' hull looked as if a single burst
from even the smallest of alien particle streams could rip her
turned to come between the fragile
breaching ship and the destroyers making to intercept her, Dana
looked up from the NAV console to see the carrier's railgun
batteries already pointing at the alien warships that hung up over
the starboard bow.
The Squidies tried for a longshot. The
alien gunners on all three destroyers reached out for the breaching
well-outside effective range. If she flew any path but a straight
line, they were just too far away to hit her.
The breaching ship slid to
port side and maintained
as much distance between her and the Squidies as she could. Any
closer, Dana thought, and those beams might catch them no matter
how the pilot of that fragile ship jinked it around.
"The alien destroyers have
accelerated," Bolo said. "They're trying to do an end run around us
Cozen thumbed the fire control comms. "All
railgun batteries, target the closest enemy destroyer and knock it
the hell out of my sky."
Jordo spun his Bitzer 151 on its jets
to get a good view of the Squidies as
fired. The railguns' osmium-tungsten
sabot compressed to hyper-density under nearly 80,000 gees of force
before they ripped out of the barrel at over 1/4 the speed of
main batteries holed the lightly armored, alien destroyer
right through. The exit wounds sprayed hot metal and gas out into
the vacuum. It leaned towards the ringed planet and began its
descent, trailing smoke and fire behind it.
pulled hard to avoid the next alien beams that reached for
rounds through the second destroyer trying to cut off the breaching
The third Squidy didn't fire on
first. It reached out
and raked its
guns down the carrier's port side, ripping the doors off three
launch bays and gouging a ragged wound down the forward Hab
module's side. The shock traveled down
spine and shook one module after
only paused for a second, maybe two, but the third alien destroyer
time to change course again.
Paladin called it out first. "It's
going to get a real shot at our breaching ship
"Flight One on me!" Jordo said.
Paladin and Dirty and Holdout stayed close as he threw his Bitzer
over in a hard turn and flew between the destroyer and the
breaching ship. Jordo dove right at its main guns. The frame of the
Bitzer shook and juddered with the 140mm cannon as Jordo and his
flight forced the alien gunners to direct fire at
instead of the breaching
"...ancer ..1.. br... ..ay. Break
the jamming, but it was too late for that. Lancer Flight One was
already drawing the Squidies fire. The alien guns stabbed past
Jordo's canopy. They sliced across his path, but it felt as if he
saw them coming before the alien gunners fired. He flew down the
particle beams, spiraling around the frustrated Squidies' fire.
Autocannon shells lit up the black as they ripped past Jordo on
either side. Holdout and Paladin and Dirty shot past him doing
barrel rolls, racing him down the beams.
"Target the guns!" Their shells wouldn't
penetrate the hull of a warship, but when the streams of fire all
walked serpentine up the towers and hosed down the Squidies' big
guns, secondary explosions lit off, and pieces of the magnetic
vectoring rings hurled themselves up at the Lancers.
Paladin shouted something on comms,
but Jordo didn't catch it all before
's next salvo arrived on-target. It
impacted the alien destroyer on the side of its tower and the broad
of its hull. Jordo was so close that his Bitzer got peppered with
bits of molten metal that briefly stuck to his cockpit like mud.
"Pull away!" Lancer Flight One all rotated on their jets and
grunted with the extreme inertial gees as they blasted themselves
on a new course to get as far away from the alien ship as they