Read Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting Online

Authors: Mike Shepherd

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

Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting (7 page)

BOOK: Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting
9.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Torpedoes began to hit, taking great chunks out of the alien base. Lasers hit where the rockets didn’t.

Then the Hellburners buried themselves in the alien ship and just kept going.

At the tip of the missile was a small chip off a neutron star. A chip weighing fifteen thousand tons! It hit with all the momentum a rocket powered by the antimatter annihilation of lead grains could impart.

That momentum carried the chip deep into its target.

Then the antimatter gun bathed the chip off the neutron star with antihydrogen.

And the whole thing went to pieces.

And the ship did, too.

Four Hellburners slammed deep into the alien planetoid before beginning their final annihilation. All ended up close to reactors.

The moon-size ship began to explode from the inside out.

Kris grinned. No doubt, the Enlightened One had located himself somewhere deep inside, safe from everything but a rampaging bit of neutron star.

The ship split apart as its own twisting and rolling sent one chunk in one direction, another in a different one. Lasers continued to engage late torpedoes as they ripped into the revealed innards of the ship.

Now laser fire from the frigates hacked huge chunks off the wreck.

No one’s going to salvage this one,
Kris thought.

The slaughter continued, but Kris chose to rethink her strategy for the small attack rockets when one of them blew up with atomic force just short of her line of circling frigates.

“All ships, accelerate away from the small attack boys at two gee. Concentrate all fire on them.”

It was fine to slice and dice a monstrous alien base when you had all the time in the world. It would be a shame to lose a ship after she’d won the battle.

Frigates changed course as main and secondary batteries played over the approaching wave of little boys.

One more exploded in an atomic ball of fire, but most vanished away with neither a bang nor a whimper.

Kris ordered her squadrons to re-form and prepare to receive the closing alien warships. She’d won this battle, but she could still lose ships and lives. She’d manage what was left at arm’s length.

It turned out that she didn’t have to.

Four ships broke away from the oncoming ships, heading for the third jump. The others began to blossom into huge balls of fire and gas as their captains took counsel with despair and gave their ships back to dust.

“L’Estock, take your least damaged ships and pursue this last bunch,” Kris ordered.

“With pleasure. Do you want me to pursue the ones that left earlier?”

Kris weighed the last three against the need to get all her ships back to Alwa. There was also the matter of what surprises the fleeing ships might leave in their wake.

“You should be able to get these four without having to follow right behind them and dodge any nice presents they leave. Get them and follow us home.”

“Aye, aye, Admiral, and may I say, as one who’s just fought his first battle, it was a pleasure to serve under you.”

“You may, but don’t tell my husband,” Kris said, and immediately regretted letting her mind dash off to that gutter.

Still, the net seemed to enjoy the joke, and Jack was grinning as she turned back to him.

“May I help you out of your egg, Admiral, my love,” he said.

“Please do,” Kris said.

8

 

Next
morning, with no battle to worry about, Kris found herself again bolting from the wardroom to dash for the head in her quarters.

What she’d just put in her tummy came right back up. Explosively.

NELLY, THERE HAS TO BE A FLU BUG OR SOMETHING, Kris said as she heaved more fine food into the toilet.

SORRY, KRIS. NO BUG. WE GOT RID OF THE BUGS THAT ARRIVED WITH THE NEW SHIPS WITHOUT A SINGLE OUTBREAK. NO FOOD POISONING EITHER. I RAN A CHECK ON EVERYTHING IN THE MESS YESTERDAY, AND IT’S ALL UP TO SPECS.

IN YOUR INFINITE SPARE TIME WHEN WE WEREN’T UP TO OUR NECKS IN PEOPLE WANTING TO KILL US, Kris thought sourly.

YES, Nelly answered. She said nothing more. She didn’t need to.

Kris scowled through her tormented stomach.
Of course Nelly can fight a battle and check on chow’s safety. She’s a computer.

Kris stood, rinsed her mouth out, then bent over as more breakfast explosively departed.

DAMN IT, NELLY, WHAT’S WRONG?

AH, KRIS, WHEN WAS YOUR LAST PERIOD? was almost in a whisper.

The question alone was enough to make Kris’s stomach lurch.

THINGS HAVE BEEN A BIT TENSE OF LATE. THEY’VE BEEN KIND OF SCANTY.

HOW SCANTY?

Kris didn’t answer her computer. The last one had only required one pad, and hadn’t had that much to show.

I CAN’T BE PREGNANT, NELLY, I JUST GOT MY BIRTH-CONTROL IMPLANTS REPLACED LAST MONTH, Kris thought, her hand going to her arm where the implant site was still a bit sensitive. It and the place where the old implants had been removed.

It was Navy policy, long before Kris joined, and certainly before Kris modified the fraternization regs, that every female recruit was issued birth-control implants. Every three years, like clockwork, they were replaced.

Kris had just entered her seventh year of service. She’d been issued new implants during her physical.

I CAN’T BE PREGNANT, Kris repeated.

ALLOW ME TO APPLY LOGIC TO THIS SITUATION, Nelly said in her oh-so-reasonable voice.

Kris scowled. Nelly could come up with such a reasonable computer voice.

WE HAVE NO FLU BUG. THERE IS NO CHANCE OF FOOD POISONING. YOU CAN’T BE PREGNANT. YOU ARE THROWING UP YOUR TOENAILS IN THE MORNING BUT ENJOYED THAT FINE VICTORY DINNER LAST NIGHT IN THE WARDROOM WITH NO PROBLEM.

MORNING SICKNESS CAN COME AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY, Kris shot back. I READ THAT SOMEWHERE.

“Stipulated,” Nelly said from Kris’s collar.

Kris took another try at rinsing her mouth. This time her stomach allowed her to finish and walk the few paces to her bed and collapse on it.

Puking was hard work.

“Now, Kris, when all the possible answers to a problem have been exhausted, it’s time to look at the impossible options, no matter how unlikely.”

“I’m not pregnant.”

“So, could you have an ulcer? All your jobs could give a marble statue an ulcer.”

Kris could only sigh at that. As Commander, Alwa Sector, she was in charge of the fleet. As Viceroy of King Raymond I of the United Society to both the humans and natives on
Alwa, she had to juggle political issues. And, as if that weren’t enough, as senior executive officer of Nuu Enterprises in the Alwa system, she bossed a major proportion of the economic life of the place. Enough that she usually had the other corporations in line, too.

“I guess I could have an ulcer,” Kris agreed.

“However, I know for a fact that if you were to present yourself to Dr. Meade with these symptoms, she would send you home with a pregnancy test. What do you say I order one and you show up with it already done tomorrow when you see the good doctor?”

Kris frowned at the overhead.
It looks like I’m going to have to pee on one either way.
“Nelly, can you get me a pregnancy test without everyone in the fleet’s knowing the admiral is taking one?”

“The fleet’s betting pool has Abby and Sergeant Bruce as the first likely to pop out a kid. You and Jack are down the list at five.”

“There’s a betting pool on that?”

“Kris, there’s a betting pool on everything, including when I’ll go on strike for a decent paycheck.”

“Nelly!”

“That one I started myself. I bet I won’t. You’d be surprised at who’s betting against me.”

Kris decided she wouldn’t.

“Well, can you get me the test without anyone’s knowing?” Kris repeated.

“I can arrange to have a test sent to Abby.”

“My maid is not on the ship, Nelly. She’s busy being Pipra Strongarm’s right arm.” Kris liked the sound of the joke. Abby hated it, but she was becoming a very good expediter and problem solver for Pipra.

“Yes, Kris,” Nelly said in her remember-I’m-a-computer-and-nowhere-near-as-dumb-as-you-humans voice. “I’ll backdate the order to before she left and have it handled as if it had been lost in processing. When it gets here, you can intercept it and misappropriate it to your own evil ends.”

“The end involved is not evil,” Kris growled.

“Yes, I know. Jack really likes that end of you.”

“Enough with the dirty jokes, Nelly. You order the test, and I’ll take it. You make sure I have an appointment early tomorrow with Dr. Meade.”

“Is ten hundred soon enough?”

“Eleven hundred would be worse, nine hundred would be better.”

“She’s handling a batch of sprained backs, ankles, and other infirmities of the flesh today. You really did honk the fleet around, Kris. The first appointment she has tomorrow for a routine problem is 1000 hours.”

“If I’m pregnant, it will
not
be a routine problem.”

“But you can’t be pregnant,” Nelly jabbed back.

“I’m fingering your OFF button,” Kris growled.

“No you aren’t, at least physically. I can see you from the emergency power-and-surveillance system.”

“You’re using the emergency-surveillance system in my bedroom!”

“Only now because it’s an emergency when you threaten to turn me off.”

“Enough of this,” Kris said, coming to her feet. “What’s my day look like?”

“Bad and likely to get worse.”

“I hate it when you try to fake it as a seer.”

“Who says I’m faking?”

9

 

Nelly
was not a false prophet. Kris’s day did get worse. With the fleet making only a single gee as it accelerated toward the jump point, Nelly had laid in a course for home that involved one big and one normal jump, so at least it was comfortable.

The message traffic alone could well give Kris an ulcer.

Admiral Yi sent a full report on the battle that in no way jibed with what Kris had seen through the probe. If she was to believe it, the alien warships could now make 3.5 gees, and that was how his fleet had been shot up.

A second report, PRIVATE AND PERSONAL—FOR LONGKNIFE EYES ONLY, arrived from Admiral Bethea. It pretty much verified what Kris herself had watched through the probe. To that, she added that Admiral Yi had sent to the fleet before they jumped into the system that he would fight the battle as he saw fit and not by any plan drawn up far from the fight that was likely obsolete before they jumped in.

He had also informed the fleet that he opposed evasion plans of any kind since they only ruined a frigate’s firing solutions.

Bethea had tight-beamed to her squadrons not to dump their evasion plans. They’d need them quick when the shooting started.

Kris checked on the recording of the battle. Admiral Bethea’s task force had been jinking as they came in range of the hostile. Yi’s task force of Earth frigates had not.

Kris found herself looking forward to a “Come to Jesus” meeting with Yi, as Grampa Trouble would call it. But that, or any other meeting, would have to wait until they got back to Alwa.

Meanwhile, Kris would contemplate the question. Could she relieve an Earth admiral and ship him down to run the bird-guano mine on Alwa?

There were plenty of other matters for Kris’s attention. The crystal armor had not done as well as advertised. She was, however, no expert in warship design. She signed off on a report from the squadron of Earth-designed frigates in her own fleet and made a bet with herself that she’d see nothing of the sort from Yi.

She won.

Nelly was right about the bumps and sprains among some of her fleet. Most were on the ships getting their first taste of battle. They’d learn, and, hopefully, pass the experience on to the next batch of new arrivals.

Kris was going through her reports, signing or initialing as required, when a small delivery robot rolled in and reported it had a package for Abby Nightingale.

Kris signed for it, and Nelly immediately wiped that from its tiny memory. Someone had drawn an empty-headed-looking smile on the thing. It bobbled off, happy as a clam, leaving Kris to meditate on the small package in her hand.

Jack stayed busy during the day; they met for supper. The
Princess Royal
was back to Condition Able, or as some called it, Love Boat. For the fight, the ship had been small and tight, with as much of the Smart Metal
TM
as possible shipped out to the hull to form a honeycomb of metal and cooling reactionmass to soften the damage from laser hits. Now, the nice Smart Metal
TM
had been pulled back into the inside of the ship, allowing for broad passageways, spacious rooms, and a wardroom that could have passed as a fine restaurant on Earth. In place of a few long tables, where everyone sat elbow to elbow, the room was populated with tables for two or four, and couples were dining by candlelight, or at least a very good imitation.

“Did you do this?” Kris asked Jack.

“The President of the Mess made the call though I will admit to suggesting something like it. We faced death and smelled its stinking breath. After something like that, people need to celebrate life.”

That was one of the reasons Kris had chosen to loosen the
regs on fraternization aboard ship. Some brilliant person back in human space had shipped a lot of young people off to the other side of the galaxy. They’d been chosen for their flexibility when ships started hard evasion maneuvers and for their lack of attachments in human space.

Oh, and because they were smart.

Being smart, it took them about five minutes to realize that having a nifty app to move Smart Metal
TM
around on their jobs also let them make doors in their rooms to next door. Attachments formed with the speed of hydrogen mixing with oxygen.

Back in human space, people could be reassigned to other ships or to base facilities. Here, Kris had almost no base facilities, and her ships had to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

BOOK: Kris Longknife 13 - Unrelenting
9.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Lawman in Disguise by Laurie Kingery
Fragment by Warren Fahy
The Mayan Priest by Guillou, Sue
High Stakes by Robin Thomas
West of the Moon by Katherine Langrish
Eden's Dream by Marcia King-Gamble
The Hydra Protocol by David Wellington