Read Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting Online

Authors: Mike Shepherd

Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Military, #Action & Adventure

Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting (6 page)

BOOK: Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting
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Kris had chosen not to make it an order. She wasn’t all that sure that the ships could be redesigned. Certainly not in the time before she ordered this operation.

Without orders, the secondaries opened up on the alien ships as the range closed to less than fifty thousand kilometers.

The forward batteries were over half recharged.

At this range, even a half-strength laser would be deadly.

“Prepare to fire forward batteries,” Kris ordered.

Ships blinked back their reply.

“Fire,” Kris almost whispered.

One hundred and ninety-two lasers reached out at reduced strength for the four surviving warships.

They vanished in hellish blazes.

“We got a problem,” came from the commander of BatRon 12.

“Report,” Kris said.

“There’s a lot of crap showing up on my sensors. I think they seeded the space behind them with whatever those mines were that hit Admiral Yi so badly.”

“I think you’re right,” Kris said. “Captains, have your secondary batteries take on anything close to your ships.”

Again, ships blinked their acknowledgments.

Then something exploded close on to the
Longbow
.

“There’s a whole lot of this crap,” Admiral L’Estock reported. “And some of it’s moving.”

“Nelly,” Kris said.

“I’m taking a feed off the
Princess Royal
’s scientific sensors,” Kris’s computer reported. Most of the ships had sailed without their science teams, leaving them behind to explore Alwa and its star system. Kris had insisted on having at least a team aboard her flag. She also had Doc Meade to offer her expertise if they had a chance to talk to some real-live aliens.

Now her boffins were passing along information that Kris could hardly believe.

A picture appeared on one of Kris’s unused screens. It showed a tiny spacecraft. A rocket motor, a small crew compartment that appeared to hold a single alien, and a big bulge in front that Kris suspected was explosives, maybe atomics.

Kris was not shocked.

She
had
been shocked when the aliens started hurtling ships into the Alwa system, intent on crashing the planet and killing people by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Possibly even rendering the planet uninhabitable.

“How can any living person do that?” Kris had asked. Then Nelly answered. Kris got a lesson on Kamikazes and
Jihadist suicide bombers and others from Old Earth’s bloody and dark history.

Admiral Furzah had added examples from Sasquan history. “Do not mistake my meaning,” she added. “We consider those who resort to this as fools. They have never won a war, but they have certainly made their mark on our history.”

Now Kris saw space between her and the monstrous alien mother ship littered with these tiny weapons, propelled by hate and guided by a living mind.

“Kris, some of the ships are larger,” Nelly reported. “I think there is room for two, maybe three. It is possible that these carry the outlawed atomic weapons.”

Outlawed by humans. Not so outlawed by these bug-eyed monsters that looked just like us.

“Nelly, warn the fleet. Get the big ones before they get you.”

“Warning sent, Kris.”

A loose cluster of three alien ships were coming in range, hurtling themselves like some bug to a flame. Kris ordered her ships to take them out, and they vanished under a hammering of full frontal fire.

Next, two came in range. Kris flipped ship just long enough to obliterate the pair.

Forward batteries were reloaded when the last three rushed to their deaths.

Kris scowled and ordered an end to the massacre.

“Whether they come at us in full ships, or in tiny, sentiently guided mines, they die,” Jack whispered.

Now that part of her problem was done. She had ten minutes to destroy a base ship before its bloodthirsty brood came howling back, screaming for Kris’s head.

“How the hell do you destroy an alert and fully armed base ship?” Kris asked no one in particular.”

Still, Admiral Furzah attempted a reply. “It is like, what do you call that animal? A porcupine. Sharp spines everywhere.”

“Only these spines are lasers,” Jack added.

“Yes,” Kris said, and considered her next major challenge.

7

 

“Squadrons
, flip ship and come up on 4.5 gees deceleration slowly. Let me know if battle damage causes you trouble.”

At 3.5 gees deceleration Earth’s BatRon 12 had a hard time keeping their overheated crystal armor from sliding off their hulls. Kris reduced them to 3.35-gee deceleration.

The
Asama
,
Broadsword
, and
Saber
hollered uncle around four gees. Kris detached them to proceed independently. She ordered all the separated ships to aim for well out on the mother ship’s base course.

They decelerated with their vulnerable sterns to the alien base ship through a loose cloud of intelligently guided mines. They fishtailed a bit, opening up their amidships secondary batteries to pop the bits and pieces of murderous crud. Occasionally, a denser cloud would require short, low-powered bursts from the aft main battery.

Still,
Longbow
suffered a near-miss atomic and had to slow down.

Kris had twelve of the large 22-inch frigates, as well as all eight of BatRon 2’s 20-inch war wagons and the
Princess Royal
as she matched course and speed with an alien mother ship the size of a small moon, still 180,000 klicks out.

“Nelly, send to the alien. ‘Enlightened One, you and all your black hats will die. Give up your arms, and I will let you live. Admiral Longknife sends.’”

“I have sent it, Kris, using what we know of their language.”

“BatRon 8 and 9, let’s back up my surrender offer with a full broadside. Pick a target on that monster and make it vanish.”

“Kris, we really ought to concentrate on what will do the most damage,” Nelly said.

“Yes, we will,” Kris answered, “but not right now. Let’s scourge him a bit before I go for blowing him to bits.”

“Psychology, huh?” Nelly asked.

“Just plain human orneriness,” Jack put in.

“It’s gotten us where we are today,” Kris pointed out.

“How long do you plan to be ornery before we slice some serious chunks off that ship?” Nelly asked.

Kris sighed. So long as the ship had rocket power, it could keep up its flight. If she cut the huge bell-shaped rockets off its aft end, would that end the run, or just allow them to douse the reactors back there and become a whole lot harder to blow up?

Kris posed the question and got half her human staff in favor of destroying the rockets. The other half, Jack included, proposed delaying that until they could get some antimatter torpedoes into the reactors and turn them loose to rip the ship apart.

Admiral Furzah voted with Jack.

It didn’t matter.

A number of Kris’s captains had taken it on their own to aim for the rocket engines that dominated the aft end of the huge, thick ellipsoid. The moon-size ship’s dash through space took on a distinct shimmy before it settled down at a steady .97-gee acceleration.

A moment later, its acceleration fell off significantly.

“They’ve dumped reactor cores and closed down half their engines,” Nelly reported.

“All ships, prepare to flip ship,” Kris ordered. “Aim your aft batteries at the rear of the base ship. Reactors are our target.”

Ships blinked on Kris’s board.

“Flip ship now. Fire.”

The
P. Royal
, having been up-gunned only to 20-inch lasers, did not join the shoot.

“We hit three, maybe four reactors,” Nelly reported. “However, they seemed to have dumped alternating reactors so one wild wave of plasma is not washing over and tripping the next one. Oh, now they’re dumping all reactors along the aft end of the base ship. Kris, the alien is just coasting.”

“That may make her an easier target,” Jack said.

“I don’t think so,” Nelly said. “They’ve just put a spin and rotation on the ship, Kris. It will be hell on whoever isn’t tied down aboard it, but it will be hell to target any specific point on its surface or inside.”

“And, no doubt,” Jack drawled, “their Enlightened One is ensconced in the safest place on that rock, waiting for the fleet to come and save his skin.”

“It will be a cold day in hell when that happens,” Kris said, and did a new count on the ships charging back from their fight with Admiral Yi. The aliens were down to sixty-three. No, make that sixty-two as another ship bloomed into a colorful flower of hot gas and bits of wreckage.

Kris eyed the clock; she had eight minutes. Time for thirty salvos from her frigates. Maybe less.

“Nelly, do you know where the reactors were on that wrecked mother ship we examined?”

“Yes, Kris.”

“Send that data to all ships. Close into one hundred and twenty-five thousand klicks and aim for the reactors that power all those lasers.”

Nelly sent the data, and the frigates began circling the base ship, keeping up their jinking while doing it. Kris had been surprised once today by longer-range lasers.

As they closed to Kris’s ordered range, she gave her next order. “Skippers, I want to slice that big, ugly melon. Aim your batteries for the same spot on the ship. I want it drilled right down to the reactors. Understood?”

The message boards blinked acknowledgment.

“Fire at will,” she ordered.

Ships flipped to present their forward batteries. The lasers showed nothing as they departed the ships, but showed brightly as they sliced into the spinning ship. Several skippers managed to walk their fire across the twisting ship, keeping the heat on one place for an entire broadside.

“How’d you do that?” on net got a quick reply. When the aft batteries were brought to bear, each frigates’ fire was much concentrated.

“Nelly, why didn’t you suggest that?” Kris asked.

“Nobody asked me, Kris, and it didn’t occur to me that you humans would need help tracking such a slow-moving target. Sorry.”

BatRon 12 joined the shoot two minutes into it. It fired its aft lasers on the approach, flipped ship, and cut power, then fired the forward lasers. Another flip, and they were decelerating toward the base ship as they recharged. They repeated that maneuver twice before they were circling it, firing with the rest of Kris’s ships.

Moments later, the rest of the cripples joined up and got into the shoot.

The monster burned under their fire, but it was a huge monster, and there was a lot of it to burn.

Then a reactor cut loose. Its plasma vented through the hull, incinerating everything along the way. That had hardly died down when another of the two hundred or so reactors along the centerline of the base ship also let loose its plasma to burn its way to the surface.

“BatRon 9, fire one antimatter torpedo per ship, if you will.”

“On their way, Admiral,” Commodore Shoalter answered.

Before they crossed the hundred-thousand-klick line, lasers reached out to burn them.

We don’t use the Hellburners yet.

Thirty-two ships blasted away at the rolling hulk. Volley fire was gone. Every second a couple of ships would fire either their forward or aft batteries. Among Shoalter’s squadron from New Eden, the ships organized themselves into pairs, aiming for a single place on the mother ship.

That quickly caught on. Now, with ten or so lasers piercing the hull at or near the same place, the pace of reactors losing containment went from occasional to frequent.

The boffins on the
Princess Royal
had applied Nelly’s map of potential reactor locations and were now running them through their sensors.

Reactors were quickly located, identified, and targeted.

The base ship was blasted to hell.

Kris ordered a volley of antimatter torpedoes. Several almost made it to the base ship.

It looked desperate for the aliens, and the ships that might give them respite were still four minutes away when desperation gave rise to a new choice.

The alien moonlet began to pop out tiny pups.

“Are those survival pods?” Penny asked.

“Sorry, Penny,” Nelly said. “Those are more of the suicide boats to attack us.”

“Nelly, warn the fleet. Suiciders coming our way. Engage them with secondary when they come in range.”

“There are a lot of them, Kris,” Amanda said, speaking for the first time that day. “Do you think we can get them in time?”

“We’ll see,” Kris said, and kept one eye on the approaching dishes, the other on the blasted and bludgeoned base ship. Maybe it was time to try some more antimatter torpedoes.

“BatRon 2, will you have a go at the bugger with one torpedo each?”

“On their way, Admiral,” and another eight ripped away and headed in.

Two hit.

“All ships, prepare to launch six torpedoes. Hawkings, have your four ‘R’s’ ready to add a Hellburner to each volley. Skippers, warn your gunners to not hit our missiles. Stand by,” Kris said. “Ripple launch antimatter torpedoes . . . now! Launch Hellburners . . . now!”

The missiles took off toward the base ship about the same time that the 5-inch secondary batteries took on the approaching suicide craft. Human missiles screamed away at ten gees acceleration; their suicide boats were barely making three gees, though they had had more time to get up to speed.

One suicider turned abruptly and crashed into a torpedo. That caused a huge explosion.

Several more small craft tried the twist. None succeeded. A few came apart as the radical turn bent, then broke the hull.

“They can’t turn,” Nelly reported. “Though those were pretty hard turns,” she added with a sniff.

Every surviving laser on the base ship came to life as if their very life depended upon it. It did. The antimatter torpedoes did a jig of Nelly’s design, as did the Hellburners. But the antimatter torpedoes were coming in faster and dancing
harder. The alien targeting computer must have mistaken the Hellburners for underperforming torpedoes.

Some torpedoes were hit. No Hellburner was even grazed.

BOOK: Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting
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