Authors: Dale Musser
THE SOLBIDYUM WARS SAGA
AT WHAT PRICE
Cover illustration by Dale Musser
Edited by Christine Thompson
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2016 by Dale C. Musser
Two years had passed since the battle at Glomar Rosa; two years since the Brotherhood destroyed over half of the Federation; two years since Admiral Regeny was killed and I was elevated to the rank of Rear Admiral and put in command of the entire Federation military. These had not been good years, nor were they kind. Depending on who you asked, I was a celebrated hero or a hated killer in the eyes of citizens of the Federation I served. I had saved both the Federation military and the Federation coalition of worlds from destruction and domination by the Brotherhood, but I had done so at a terrible price by sacrificing billions of innocent lives during the battle at the Brotherhood-occupied Federation planet, Glomar Rosa. To many of those who had friends and relatives living there, I would forever be perceived and despised as a mass murderer. To those whose relatives fought in the battle and survived and to those who lived on other planets under siege by the Brotherhood that day, I was a hero.
As for me, I felt more the murderer than the hero. The agony that plagued me since my actions that day marred my body and spirit even more than the degenerating synthetic nerves that were treated by A’Lappe’s painful treatments. For two years I had been haunted nightly by dreams of the billions who died. It didn’t matter that the computer simulations performed later showed that my decision was the only one that could have saved the Federation on that occasion; I would forever wonder whether there wasn’t some other way I might have saved more lives. The saddest part was that Ming escaped once again and lived to resume his attacks on the citizens and worlds of the Federation.
It was unknown how badly the Federation had hurt the Brotherhood that day, but there were no large-scale attacks again for nearly a year after the conflict at Glomar Rosa. Even then, the scale of their strikes lacked the force their earlier attacks had demonstrated. However, in more recent months Brotherhood incursions were on the rise and so too were the number of asteroid-ships seen in the battles. The Brotherhood seemed to have given up on more conventional ships, other than fighters, obviously because the asteroid-ships were quicker and easier to build. From the few that were damaged and abandoned at Glomar Rosa, the Federation military discovered these unusual but deadly warships were sparsely furnished and equipped in a minimalist fashion that afforded few comforts for the crew. In general, the asteroid-ships seemed to be staffed with only the barest number required to fly and navigate, man the guns, keep the engines going and pilot any fighter craft that might be held in a hangar area carved into the asteroid. Nevertheless, the asteroid-ships were highly effective as offensive weapons and the Brotherhood could produce and staff one in less than half the time and for a fraction of the cost required to build a single Federation carrier.
The Reverse Magnetic Force Field (RMFF) shielding and the dense rock material made the asteroid-ships particularly difficult to take out of action. It could be done, and the Federation military had done so on more than one occasion, but it wasn’t easy. The Plasma Laser Amplified Beam Emitter (PLABE), developed just before the battle at Glomar Rosa, was the key to disabling or destroying the asteroid-ships, but it was not a readily available weapon. The PLABE was an armament created by A’Lappe that essentially combined the technology of laser and plasma weaponry. It could make short work of any ship the Brotherhood had in its fleet. Unfortunately, the Federation had only four PLABEs, including the prototype on my private fighter, when a thousand or more were needed. No more of these weapons would be fabricated unless a new supply of rundadite was found, and that scenario seemed unlikely. Rundadite was exceedingly rare and no viable site had yet been identified where more might be obtained.
The Federation still had the advantage of the Cantolla Gates, which created an opening in the fabric of space that allowed objects and people to pass from one location to another as easily as walking through a door. As a result, the Federation required fewer ships to be stationed for defensive purposes, as forces could be mobilized quickly to any location when needed, so long as there was a matching Cantolla Gate in the vicinity. However, since a single gate could only be configured to one other matching gate, arriving at more remote destinations required coordinated passage through a series gates. So far, the Federation had managed to keep the secret of the gate technology out of the hands of the enemy, but I knew it was only a matter of time before they either figured it out on their own or acquired the information by one means or another.
Overall, the Federation had barely been holding its own in the battles and in the war. Several thousand planets had fallen to the Brotherhood in less than a year. Slowly, the Brotherhood was winning the war by attrition.
To counter the rise in Brotherhood incursions, the Federation Senate finally agreed to a military draft of young people between the ages of eighteen and thirty years. The draft helped immensely to augment the troops and pilots that were desperately needed to maintain the Federation’s defenses and hopefully turn the war in their favor. However, the military also needed more ships and hardware. In the past two years many commercial factories throughout the Federation had modified their production lines to accommodate fabrication of armament for the military. Likewise; ship fabrication facilities were added and expanded in a mad rush to get one step ahead of the enemy. After the devastation at Glomar Rosa, the Senate also reversed its earlier ruling that forbade the Federation military from pursuing and engaging enemy forces and military bases outside Federation territory. This decision was a huge step in the right direction; I only hoped it hadn’t come too late.
After the death of Rear Admiral Regeny, I had been designated to take his place as Rear Admiral and head of the Federation Armed Forces. I was expected to take up command at the Admiralty offices in the Capitol Station at Megelleon, but I was never one to command from behind a desk. Hence, I maintained operations while aboard the
and used the Cantolla Gates to return to my office at the Capitol Station for conferences with senators and other government officials that expected me to meet with them there. The Senate complained that it was unsafe for me to lead the military from aboard a warship and that I should remain in an office at the Capitol. I countered that I could only lead effectively while aboard a ship where the action was happening. I pointed out Glomar Rosa as an example. In the end, a compromise was struck; the Senate agreed that I could lead from a ship, but it had to be a ship with excellent defenses, which included some heavily armed escort ships, and simply using the
as my flagship was not enough. This compromise resulted in the construction of my new flagship, the
During my time on Earth it would have taken years or decades to build such a ship, but the synthesizers and the automated building methods of the Federation allowed the
to be completed in just a little under a year. Of course, nearly the entire design of the ship was A’Lappe’s. Very little input came from Admiral Marranalis and me. The
was like nothing else in the Federation. It was larger than the carriers but smaller than their predecessors, the starships that once served the Federation as the largest of all its carriers and dignitary transport ships. While the senators had intended the
to be designed as a well-guarded defensive ship – a safe haven where I could direct military operations – A’Lappe had seen to it that it hosted the most potent offensive warship weaponry in the Federation arsenal. In additional to an enhanced RMFF shield and an exceptionally dense hull material that could withstand most weapon fire employed by the Brotherhood, the
was also equipped with a phalanx laser system capable of destroying incoming torpedoes. Its design also included more than two hundred torpedo launch tubes of its own around the outer hull, an impressive torpedo rearmament system, and one of the four existing PLABE cannons. Finally, as though this protection was not sufficient, the
’s hangar was designed with sixteen fighter launch tubes and a seventeenth tube mounted on Cantolla Gates, through which additional fighters could be transferred on demand. The ship carried a thousand soldiers on board and a smaller, personnel-sized Cantolla Gate for mobilization of additional troopers. This was hardly a ship of defense; and if any members of the Senate were aware of these extraordinary design features, they didn’t mention it or argue against it. After the disaster at Glomar Rosa, the Senate had finally given up on seeking peaceful solutions to the war with the Brotherhood and was now solidly behind the idea of destroying them entirely and forever.
“Well, Admiral, are you ready to move into your new headquarters?” asked Admiral Marranalis as we stood side by side, waiting to pass through the Cantolla Gate into the
“I certainly am,” I answered. “I just wish we had a target lined up to destroy with it.”
“Have you looked at your reports this morning?” he asked.
“No, not yet. I plan to, once we’re aboard.”
“There’s a message from Admiral Wabussie in your reports that I think may be of particular interest to you. It concerns Ming and his possible whereabouts.”
“Good. I hope it is,” I answered.
“You know, Admiral, I was surprised when the Senate decided to name your new ship after Glomar Rosa. In a way, I was sort of hoping they would be more forgiving of Regeny and name the ship after him.”
“I know. I was hoping something along the same lines, but that was not to be. I’m not sure the Federation will ever forgive Regeny for what happened. As for naming the ship the
, I think that was a deliberate action by the Senate to remind me daily of what I did there and not to do it again. There are still a lot of outraged and unforgiving people who aren’t about to reconcile themselves with my actions there.”
“Yes. I don’t understand it, though. You did the only thing that could save the Federation. Every computer simulation proved it, yet two years later people still want to blame you. I know there are a lot of individuals who call you a warmonger, Tibby, but I don’t see how they can justify it, when it was by your actions that peace was established with the Ruwallie Rasson at Goo’Waddle and eventually with the androids. Show me another person in the last six hundred years who brought about peace with even one planet! So why do they blame you for the wars?”
“Some people insist that the universe and the people in it operate the way they dream about it. Such people refuse to see the truth and the reality that is right before their eyes,” I answered. “They view life through
, as we used to say on Earth. For them it’s easier to believe that all anyone needs to do is say the word
and the enemy will smile, embrace good will and harmony, and extend a hand of friendship instead one that holds a sword. The idea that the enemy actually wishes to enslave them or destroy them is something they refuse to accept, even when the threat is virtually approaching their doorsteps.
“Well, Admiral, shall we go through the gate to our new headquarters?”
“Indeed Admiral,” replied Marranalis with a grin. And with that, we stepped through the gate on the Capitol Station in into the gate hub on the
Immediately we were challenged by the officer in command of the gate. “Identify yourselves,” he ordered.
“Rear Admiral Tibby.”
I watched as one of the troopers in the hub checked our voice imprints on the computer. At the same time, I knew our eyes and other physical features were being scanned and matched with our personnel data. The entire procedure only took no more than two seconds before a green light came on, indicating our identities had been confirmed.
“Welcome aboard, Admirals,” said the commanding officer. Ever since the battle at Glomar Rosa, the Senate insisted on more stringent security features for all Cantolla Gates. Even the private gates at my estate on Megelleon and on my yacht, the
were now protected by a squad of Federation troopers. No one passed through the gates without clearing the security checks on both ends.
One thing I liked about this new security feature was that I had been able to convince the Senate that I no longer needed a security detail to follow me about the ship when I was aboard. In the past, these security teams had been a real pain in the ass and prevented me from accomplishing many of the things I really needed to do. It was especially difficult to find discreet means of getting to A’Lappe for the weekly treatments that helped to counter the effect of my synthetic nerve rejection without them learning of my condition.
Marranalis and I chatted as we strolled down the hall. We occasionally encountered troopers, who snapped to attention and saluted as we encountered them in the corridors. It was annoying to have to repeatedly salute back, but I couldn’t see any way around that. It was something I’d never gotten used to since joining the Federation military.
There was a new relaxed air about Marranalis recently. He seemed to be more personal with me in his conversation and demeanor and a sense of camaraderie had developed between us that had been missing, or perhaps more accurately, less evident before. We had always been close, but I thought that it might have been more out of necessity, as his role required him to be with me most of the time. Even now, since his promotion to Admiral, he was still junior to me and still served as my aide; but there seemed to be more of an equal footing and I sensed that he felt free to see us not only as commanding officers but also as close friends. To be honest, as my aide Marranalis was probably the second most powerful man in the Federation military. I believe that realization changed him in a good way. Most men would have been overwhelmed by such a strong taste of power – letting it go to their heads, as it were – but not Marranalis. Maybe he was able to wield that power fairly and dispassionately, knowing that he didn’t have the burden of making the truly hard decisions. That still was my role. When it came to wartime executive orders, all he needed to do was issue the orders and make reports to me about the outcomes. This isn’t to say his role was easy or lacked authority. Just the opposite, Marranalis had a very demanding job that required a supremely stable mind and the endurance to undertake volumes of hard work. There was no one I trusted more in the Federation than Marranalis, except possibly Kala and A’Lappe.