Star Force 82 Hradeiti (SF82) (Star Force Origin Series) (8 page)

BOOK: Star Force 82 Hradeiti (SF82) (Star Force Origin Series)
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Bra’shom didn’t envy them that task, but he did relieve them of the duties for the military portion of the project. That was the most important element, and the Executive Council made sure that he was getting everything and everyone he needed to build and sustain the military. That was their role, along with diplomacy and dealing with clients and investors. The ongoing mercenary work was being arranged by the council then handed off to the military to complete, and the two aspects of the Hradeiti had a good working relationship, which was a prerequisite for attempting an endeavor such as this. Let politics creep in and they’d be doomed.

      
Fortunately the councilors knew this as well and kept such things at arm’s reach and confined to outsiders, both of which were kept away from Bra’shom so he could focus on what was needed without distraction.

      
“Good news or bad news?” a Critel councilor asked.

      
“I cannot speak to our fortunes,” the Scionate said as he walked the few steps across the small room to stand before their V-shaped bank of seats with them surrounding him on three sides, “but I am hesitant to say that I believe we are entering our operational window. I do not suggest we go now, but I am here to report that if we did we would have a chance at success against the weakest of the lizard targets.”

      
“You feel the navy is sufficient?” a Protovic asked.

      
“Our coordination is adequate. I still worry about the jamming of our drones, but given the hybrid structure we’ve developed I believe that we would still be capable of fighting. It wouldn’t doom us, and we still have the laser backups. Short range line of sight would enable us to instruct the drones to attack specific targets. Our efficiency would take a hit not being able to selectively choose, but such jamming would not be a deathblow. We’ve simmed several such scenarios.”

      
“I was speaking more to the size of the fleet.”

      
“I can always use more ships, but right now I’ve got enough if we pull back our mercenary teams. I do not suggest we do that, but it is time we start looking for a suitable target.”

      
“You’re that confident?” another Critel asked.

      
“Yes. But it has more to do with configuring our forces for a specific target rather than us being ready to go right now. We might be able to take a number of worlds right now, but I need to know which one in order to specialize future ship acquisitions and ground attack equipment. If we keep building in general fashion it will take us longer to get to what I consider sufficient strength to overwhelm. Right now it’d be a fair fight, and we can’t let it be a fair fight or we’ll lose most of our forces in the effort. We not only have to take a world, we have to have the forces to defend it and move on to the next. We will not sacrifice what we’ve built to attain a target knowingly, but once we engage we will go for broke.”

      
“I understand the distinction,” the Calavari councilor noted. “What kind of specializations are you referring to?”

      
“Specifically what type of orbital defenses the lizards have. How much orbital bombardment will be necessary. I do not want to use the cleansing beams, or rather I do not want to rely on them. I intend to use mass weapons to take down surface shields in a region.”

      
“Railguns?”

      
“More like throwing an asteroid field at the surface. We cannot afford to waste ships slugging it out with anti-orbital batteries. Star Force has more options than us in that regard. I need to know how many anti-orbital batteries we need to take out to secure a surface site and how strong their shield strength is in order to determine how many asteroids we need to collect or construct. We have a few launchers already, but if we need to build more I need to know how many more to order constructed. Too few or too many will waste our resources and precious time. The lizards are growing stronger and we need to take at least one world to secure our future in this endeavor. The longer we delay the more difficult it will become, and you all know that the lizards’ growth rate is exponential.”

      
“Your timing is impeccable,” a Gardeen said, tilting its head fin forward in a deferential gesture. “I’ve just secured confirmation from Star Force that the Mevis System is a legitimate target.”

      
Bra’shom’s eyes narrowed. “Why am I not familiar with that system?”

      
“Because sometime in the past 3 years the lizards decided to start a new colony on it.”

      
The Scionate gestured to the councilor on his left and the Critel brought up a starmap. The whole of the lizard boarder along the ADZ came into view in the center of the V and Bra’shom stepped back as the pinprick of stars surrounded him. Ninja Monkey territory shown as a tiny swath across the center of the border, but a single dot highlighted far from there and much further down the galactic plane.

      
“We got a scouting update passed on from an independent trader going off the main route from Shirpon to Velcor,” the Gardeen explained, referring to a Calavari commerce system and one of the few races within lizard territory that hadn’t been targeted. They occupied an otherwise toxic world and thus the lizards hadn’t seen fit to eliminate them. They’d been keeping a low profile since the surrounding systems had been conquered and many speculated as to whether or not they had an arrangement with the lizards. Regardless, they produced a number of compounds that were rare in the ADZ and a healthy trade route had sprung up connecting back to Star Force territory…all made possible by independent traders and others brave enough to run the border and lucky enough not to get picked up by a lizard patrol.

      
They avoided inhabited lizard systems, taking several possible routes around the hot spots and adding distance to their journey in exchange for anonymity, but one point on one of those routes was now blocked in so much as the lizards now had a presence, if not a stellar blockade, in the Velcor System.

      
“A single surface colony seen at extreme distance. The trader didn’t stick around long, but they did detect two cruisers in the system in addition to surface activity on the only marginally habitable planet. Desert climate, adequate atmosphere. We dispatched a proper survey ship and it recently reported back this.”

      
The starmap altered to a single system view with side panels with tactical data and surface highlights. Bra’shom saw three different colonies on the planet’s surface, as well as a small shipyard in orbit. Protecting the system was a fleet of some 83 cruisers…too many to have been produced locally. They’d obviously sent in additional ships to prop up the system defense, but that number was so low it wouldn’t do much to bother Star Force.

      
“Why was I not made aware of this earlier?”

      
“We were not sure if it was a valid target, so I wanted to run it by my contacts in Star Force first before I bothered you with it. They have said it is a legitimate target, but cautioned that this might be a trap.”

      
“Will they still back us if we secure a surface foothold?”

      
“If we can eliminate the defense fleet first, yes. I got confirmation of that two days ago.”

      
“Then why didn’t you contact me two days ago?”

      
“We know most of our veteran troops are currently on assignment and it’ll take time to recall them. Sending our other forces now to take advantage of this opportunity would be reckless, so we assumed we had time to discuss this and the repercussions until we met with you again. Now you have and we’re informing you. Please take no slight in this, we are simply concerned that this opportunity may be too good to be true.”

      
“We’re worried that we might jump in to find a fleet of 1000 or more ships,” the Protovic said. “This close to the Star Force border, less than 100 cruisers is too low to be secure. Do you concur?”

      
“Yes I do, though it may not matter. The lizards are unaware of what we’re doing here, I assume. So long as we seize the system sufficient to Star Force’s requirements our mission will be accomplished. Whatever the lizards are attempting to do will be irrelevant.”

      
“What of the lag time between our conquest and Star Force arriving to defend it?”

      
“We won’t need the full fleet at these current numbers. As fast as lizards build, we have to jump on this immediately. How recent is this scouting report?”

      
“28 days old,” the Gardeen reported.

      
“This is too good an opportunity to pass up. We must move now.”

      
The Calavari frowned. “Are you certain?”

      
Bra’shom nodded his large head firmly. “If the lizards are going to further reinforce, we would be better off taking them now than waiting. The number of ships they can pull in is far greater than what we’re capable of doing. If we can take this system, consider it a warmup for a proper assault on another. A stepping stone to our full plans coming to fruition, and a quick way to pay off existing investments and garner publicity. It won’t be the grand invasion we’ve been planning, if we’re lucky, but we cannot pass on this or delay…otherwise it will become a larger battle.”

      
“And if they land a large fleet there before you arrive with, arguably, our second string of troops?”

      
“Then we withdraw. We can send a scout ship in first, wait in a nearby empty system for the results, then move in if conditions are favorable. That will diminish the window for reinforcement to days. Star Force must be notified though, so they can add the system to their defense zone and have a fleet nearby in case the lizards counterpunch quickly.”

      
“Are they going to put a permanent fleet on guard for us?” a Critel asked.

      
“I do not know for certain,” the Gardeen said, glancing at Bra’shom. “They simply assured me of protection if we reach the requirements.”

      
“They’ll have to,” Bra’shom said with a nod. “I would not worry about them so long as they are notified. They will hold up their end of the bargain.”

      
“Are you certain of this?” an Irondel asked from his elevated platform. “We have built up so much that we cannot risk this on a gamble.”

      
“Trust me,” Bra’shom insisted. “If this data is genuine, we can go now and pick this world from the lizards at little cost to us. Even if they have a larger fleet arrive, they will not have anti-orbital batteries covering the planet. This data indicates only two, and we can set down our troops outside their range and began an assault overland. We can secure a foothold with ease, and so long as we are successfully advancing on a lizard city and not getting our asses kicked, Star Force will sanction the endeavor and back us up. I cannot urge you more. This is a limited window of opportunity. Our troops are ready. We must go now.”

      
“Then I’m sorry we didn’t bring this to your attention immediately,” the Gardeen apologized. “Go and make this happen,” he said, exchanging confirmation glances with the other councilors.

      
“Contact Star Force and make sure they’re aware of what we’re doing,” Bra’shom insisted.

      
“We’ll take care of it,” the Calavari promised. “Take whatever preparations you need and go. Waste no further time discussing with us.”

      
Bra’shom nodded and spun around, trotting out the door and quickly making his way through the command building.

      
“I am glad we are ready to seize this opportunity,” the Irondel stated. “He is right. This will score us our first victory even if it is a cheap one. It will not be a full test of an invasion.”

      
“Do not minimize it,” the Calavari cautioned. “Whenever you engage the lizards in combat you must be wary.”

      
“I will trust you on that,” the Irondel deferred, seeing as how the Calavari was the only councilor with battle experience against them, “but it is not a fully protected planet.”

      
“And we are not Star Force. We need to attack now, but this will be a tough fight. We will probably lose people.”

      
“Even if we send every available ship?”

      
“The lizards do not surrender. They will ram us if needed to do damage, and we do not have dampening shields.”

      
“But we do have drones,” a Critel argued.

      
“Yes, but the lizards are crafty. I believe our blood will be shed in orbit before we even get to ground. When that is the case, never minimize the assault. We know a more inhabited world will be far tougher, but this is for real. Not another mercenary mission. This is the war Star Force has been fighting since its inception. We’re just starting with a tiny corner of it. Be grateful, but do not underestimate the enemy. To us or our investors. If we are to err, let it be in overestimation.”

      
“Wise words,” the Protovic agreed. “Now let’s get this underway and prove ourselves to Star Force. If this is enough for them to count it, then they are surely not underestimating the threat.”

      
“I’ll handle the contact,” the Gardeen offered. “The rest of you see that Bra’shom is expedited as much as possible.”

      
“Do we tell the investors beforehand?”

      
“No,” the Calavari said quickly, drawing a few looks from the others. “This is a Hradeiti operation, and let’s keep it in-house this first time out. If we succeed we can show them the vids afterwards.”

      
“And if we fail?” a Critel asked.

BOOK: Star Force 82 Hradeiti (SF82) (Star Force Origin Series)
9.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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