The Santana Nexus (Junkyard Dogs Book 3)

BOOK: The Santana Nexus (Junkyard Dogs Book 3)
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Junkyard Dogs Book Three

The
Santana Nexus.

 

by Phillip Nolte

(
[email protected]
)

 

Cover image by
A. Wirth
. (
[email protected]

 

 

 

Dedication.

 

This book is dedicated to our two feline housemates,
Ozzie and Hanna
, who kept me company and generously shared their warmth during many of the hours that went into creating the Junkyard Dogs series...

 

Special thanks to good friend and artist
A. Wirth
for her stellar artwork.

 

 

 

The
Santana Nexus
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright 2014 by Phillip Nolte

 

Prologue.

 

"...My
worst fears have been realized. The Santana Quadrant has disintegrated into chaos as organized terrorists have taken over many of the poorly guarded outposts and disrupted communications throughout the Quadrant. All of this hostile activity has to be leading to something, but what that might be isn't clear yet. The Enemy claims that this is the dawn of a new day and is referring to these collective acts of terrorism as a "Glorious Revolution." Naturally, rumors are running rampant. Some people are saying that this self-appointed Sheik of Barsoom wishes to install himself as the Emperor of Jasmine, abolishing the democracy that has flourished there for the last fifty years or more. Beyond that, he may have ambitions regarding the takeover of the Islamic Alliance itself! I don't know that I believe any of it but I will say this: While such a scheme would have seemed laughable only a short time ago, there is nothing funny about the success that this Sheik and his forces have enjoyed over the last several weeks!

...
We have fared far better than I had hoped out here in the Reclamation Center. We were able to fight off an attack by a formidable group of the Sheik's forces, actually succeeding in destroying one of their three destroyers and forcing another to surrender before the rest of the attackers fled the system. Our casualties were relatively light, with only five killed and another dozen wounded but our numbers are so small that even these few represent such a substantial reduction in our forces that we will be hard-pressed to sustain such losses...

...
If we are to maintain some kind of presence out here in New Ceylon, we are going to need more of everything: more ships, more supplies, more weapons, but most of all more personnel. Thank God we have the entire inventory of the Scrapyard to draw from but what I really need now is more people..."

Excerpt from the personal log of Oskar Kresge, United Terran Federation Naval Commander and commanding officer of the UTFN Reclamation Center near New Ceylon.

 

U
nited Terran Federation Navel (UTFN) Reclamation Center, onboard Federation Auxiliary ship
Greyhound
, January 2, 2599.

Irene Marshall and Allison Steuben were in the belly hold of the
ancient freighter
Greyhound
, performing a mundane but necessary task. They were taking inventory on the supplies that remained to the personnel of the United Terran Federation Naval Reclamation Center, a huge floating spaceship junkyard also known as the "Scrapyard." Irene, a stunning, elegant woman with shoulder-length auburn hair, currently dressed in a smudged khaki coverall, looked up from the tablet she was taking notes on and said, "This is the last item on our list, Allison. There should be a case of irradiated beef Burgundy." Her deep blue eyes looked over at her companion in expectation.

Allison Steuben, a
slender, fortyish brunette currently on her hands and knees in a remote corner of the hold pulled a carton out of the specially designed cargo shelving that lined the hold of the ancient freighter. "Yeah, here it is, 'Le Ritz Extra Fancy Beef Burgundy.'"

"Is it all there?"

"It's still sealed," said Allison. She tipped the carton on its side. "The box says there's twenty-five servings inside."

"
We could feed everybody for a couple of days with that if we stretch it with the pasta we have left," said Irene.

"
We could, but why not just serve it with potatoes?" asked Allison, "Seems like we have more dehydrated potatoes than we do of anything else."

"
Or we could make both and let them have a choice," responded Irene.

"That could work."

Irene sighed and shook her head as she set the tablet down, "I suppose we should stop trying to fool ourselves. We're running out of food and almost everything else. The sooner we admit it and start doing something about it, the better."

"I can't disagree with you, Irene," replied Allison,
as she returned the carton to the shelf, "You'll talk to Oscar?"

Commander Oskar Kresge was the commanding officer of the Reclamation Center and was also Irene Marshall's fiancé. Until recent events intervened, Irene had been the Undersecretary of Commerce on the New Ceylon Orbital Station
, a station in close orbit around New Ceylon, the inhabited planet in the small, remote star system that was also home to the Reclamation Center. The Scrapyard had been established in the L5 point of New Ceylon's orbit around the star Naccobus which meant that the huge cloud of wrecked ships followed the same orbit as the planet but remained perpetually locked into a position some one hundred and sixty million kilometers behind it. As a businesswoman and a trained diplomat, Irene's skills were perhaps somewhat underutilized in the current setting but the assorted amalgamation of people taking refuge in the Scrapyard had come there for survival. While in survival mode, no job is trivial and the two women were performing a vital task.

"Y
es, I'll go and talk to him," said Irene, "I almost hate to burden him with even more bad news though; he's got so much on his plate."

"
I know it's not the best way to start out a new year," said Allison, "but putting it off will only make it worse. I know how you feel, but it's gonna get pretty tense out here if we don't do something about this food situation right away."

"I know," Irene sighed
again, "I'll do it as soon as we're done down here."

"
I'll finish tidying up," said Allison, "You should go talk to the Commander now."

"
You're right, of course. Thanks for all your help, Allison."

"No problem, Irene.
"

 

Chapter 1

 

Onboard Meridian Imperial Destroyer
Nasr
, on patrol in the Oneida system, January 2, 2599.

Captain
Araman Bishara, in command of the
MIS
Nasr,
a Meridian Imperial Navy Destroyer, received an urgent call from Lieutenant Commander Amir Salib, the overall commander of the four-destroyer strong Islamic Alliance patrol force that the
Nasr
was a part of. The three other ships in the small fleet were all from the Republic of Jasmine. Together, the four ships were making a sweep through several of the smaller star systems in a remote area of the Santana Quadrant. Because he was the most junior of the four ship Captains and his ship was the only one of the group originating out of Meridian, Bishara had been assigned the least glamorous duty available and that consisted of maintaining station near the Whitney hyperlink zone of the remote Oneida star system.

Guarding the hyperlink zone
had been mostly routine duty so far with the only activity of any note over the last two days being the arrival of a Federation destroyer into the system just a couple of hours ago. Bishara had exchanged routine formalities with the
FNS
Larkspur
and allowed them passage to the inhabited planet to service the system's orbital communications platform. The
Larkspur
was bringing in a fresh crew to relieve the technicians who had been on duty operating the communications platform for the last thirty days.

The
somewhat frantic call to the
Nasr
, which means "Eagle" in Old Earth English, requested immediate assistance with some kind of unspecified emergency near the single sparsely inhabited planet of the system. Bishara instructed his bridge crew to execute a microjump towards the planet with all possible speed. With the jump completed, the
Nasr
was still a good half hour or so away from the planet and the other ships of her patrol. After giving his crew a couple of minutes to recover from the aftereffects of the jump, Bishara gave the order to continue the journey towards the planet as quickly as possible.

He
and his bridge crew watched and listened in horror and disbelief at the scene unfolding on the viewscreens of their ship. The
Larkspur
, the United Terran Federation Navy destroyer that Bishara had greeted just a couple of hours earlier, was attempting to fight off a coordinated, combined attack by the other three of Bishara's fellow Islamic Alliance destroyers. The
Larkspur
was in an impossible situation, with attackers coming at her from extremely close range and from several directions at once. The shields of the Federation ship were blazing with a dangerously livid violet glare from repeated and relentless pulse beam strikes.

The
captain of the
Larkspur
was exhorting her adversaries that she was on a peaceful mission and that the Jasmine destroyers should cease their attack.

"
Jasmine forces, this is Captain Jennifer Helmsford of the
Larkspur
, we are not your enemy! Cease fire! I repeat, Cease fire!"

"You Federation dogs have dictated to us for the last time!"
came the reply.
"Prepare to die!"

"This is
Larkspur
, I warn you; if you continue with this illegal action we will be forced to retaliate."

The enemy reply was another salvo. The
Larkspur's
shields were now blazing even more ominously. Bishara had heard rumors of how capable the new
Fletcher II
class of Federation destroyers were and he was immediately impressed by how well the ship was shielded. True, the
Larkspur's
shields were failing, but he knew that his own ship would never have held up even half as long under the pounding that the Federation ship was absorbing.

The last salvo force
d the Captain of the Federation ship to take action, finally. Instead of attempting to respond to all three of her attackers at the same time, the Federation captain concentrated her fire on a single ship, the one closest to her. Bishara couldn't help but feel a sense of admiration as he watched the Federation ship fire multiple salvos from all four of her main battery pulse beams at the single target. The rate of fire from the
Larkspur's
powerful main batteries was...simply astounding! These new Federation destroyers were indeed formidable! Perhaps defeating this one Federation ship was going to require even more than three of the Jasmine ships! No wonder the leader of the Jasmine forces had called the
Nasr
in for backup!

The recipient of th
e
Larkspur's
barrage had not been destroyed by the onslaught but she was badly damaged with her hull holed in several places, damage which immediately took her out of the fight. With a single stroke, the Federation Captain had lowered the odds against her ship considerably!

The turrets on the Federation ship began to
rotate to target one of the other two attacking ships. But it was too little too late for the brave Captain and crew of the
Larkspur
as the odds finally caught up with them. As Bishara and the
Nasr
came within the range of their own pulse beam weapons, the remaining two Meridian ships, perhaps taking a page from their adversary's book, coordinated their attack and simultaneously fired both pulse beams from their front turrets, striking the Federation destroyer amidships from two different directions with four powerful pulses. The shields on the Federation ship flared to an impossibly bright searing white before winking out completely.

"In the name of the Sheik of Barsoom, prepare to die, Federation dogs!"

The Federation ship, which from Bishara's point of view had almost certainly been victim of a surprise attack, was now helpless.

"This is Captain Helmsford. I still don't know what your game is but
the
Larkspur
surrenders, I repeat, the
Larkspur
surrenders!"

Inexplicably, the ship that the
Larkspur
had fired upon suddenly disintegrated in a bright ball of expanding plasma!

As that event was registering in his overloaded brain,
Bishara watched in horror as one of the attacking destroyers fired a salvo of pulses from her front turret at the helpless Federation ship, striking the front main battery turret and totally destroying it. This was appalling as well as confusing! The
Larkspur
had surrendered! The Naval rules of engagement regarding the next course of action were crystal clear: they were to accept her surrender!

The entire affair had a sort of
wrongness
to it that left Bishara with an impossible decision to make. His mind worked frantically. By declaring his small fleet to be acting on behalf of the Sheik of Barsoom, the leader of the Jasmine forces had declared himself and his companion ships to be outlaws!

Bishara made the most difficult decision of his entire naval career.
His course was clear however, Meridian was not at war with the Federation nor did they want to be. He sent a message.

"
Commander Salib you must cease this illegal attack at once."

In direct defiance of Bishara's announcement,
Salib's ship, the
JRS Asad
, targeted the rear turret of the helpless
Larkspur
and destroyed it as well.

"You will declare allegiance to the Sheik of Barsoom or you'll be next
Nasr
!"

With his heart in his throat, but k
nowing that he was absolutely doing the right thing, Bishara carried through with his duty.

"Weapons?
Target the engines on the
Asad
, we must stop this illegal slaughter!"

Two
beams from the front turret on the
Nasr
lanced out and struck the
Asad
from the rear. Five seconds later, to Bishara's horror, the
Asad
, rather than simply being disabled, blew up in a searing flash!

"Sensors?
What just happened. Our single salvo should not have destroyed that ship!

"
I cannot be certain, Captain," replied the sensor operator, "something is definitely out of the ordinary."

The other intact Meridian ship turned to face the new threat and fired her front pulse beams at the
Nasr
. And then fired them again, impossibly quickly! It soon became obvious that this ship was performing well above her normal capability as Bishara noted with growing concern that the strikes from the two salvos in rapid succession had dropped his shield strength to less than twenty-five percent! There were also reports coming in of minor damage to several areas on his ship. Another hit could well put him and his crew in mortal danger!

"Captain?" ventured the sensor operator, "I think I know what they have been doing."

"Quickly, sensors, we have no time!"

"With the readouts I'm getting, it is almost certain that these ships have been operating their power
plants in high overload mode," reported the sensor operator. "That explains why their rate of fire was is so high and why the shields on the
Asad
had been so effective against the Federation pulse beams."

"
Until we put a couple of pulse bolts right up her drive tubes," said Bishara. "Good work sensors! Weapons? Target the bridge area on that remaining ship! Quickly, he is operating his weapons in overload as well, we cannot sustain many more hits."

The
Nasr
fired her front pulse beams and scored two impacts near the enemy's bridge. Bishara fully expected retaliation but, for some reason, there was no return fire, at least for the moment. Bishara was running down his limited repertoire of responses when he got help from an unexpected source: the
Larkspur
. The Federation ship had lost both main batteries and had not been able to restore her shields but, taking advantage of the brief respite provided by the
Nasr
, she fired one of the ship-to-ship missiles she carried and managed to put it right up the drive tubes of the remaining rogue Jasmine ship. There was a primary explosion as the missile detonated followed almost immediately by a much larger secondary explosion from the implosion of the overloaded power plant.

That quickly, the battle was over.

Some thirty seconds later, Bishara was contacted by Helmsford.

"Meridian ship,
whoever you are, this is the
Larkspur
, I thank you for your help but that last salvo was more than our ship could take, we are losing containment on our reactor. We must abandon ship and we must do so immediately!"

"
Larkspur,
this is
MIS
Nasr
, Captain Bishara speaking, "We are prepared to render assistance. How long before that reactor goes critical?"

"We
don’t' have much more than fifteen minutes unless my chief engineer can find a way to buy a little more time. Please don't delay,
Nasr
, we're already getting radiation readings well above safe levels!"

"Get your people ready to evacuate from both airlocks, Captain Helmsford. We'll send our cutter
immediately."

"Roger,
Nasr, Larkspur
is preparing to evacuate."

During the brief lull in
his duties as the crews of both ships rushed to respond to the immediate danger, Bishara queried the Captain of the
Larkspu
r. "What in the name of the Prophet happened here?" he asked.

"We were just about to the docking area
for the communications platform when these three ships started shooting at us. One of the ships targeted the communications platform and the other two opened up on us. The attack was totally unexpected and completely unprovoked. Thank God I have a good crew! My sensor operator noted charged weapons and my first officer ordered the shields up or the opening salvos from those ships would have been devastating. If those two hadn't been on the ball, you and I would not be having this conversation!"

"I assume you will
also require medical assistance,
Larkspur
?"

"You assume correctly, Captain Bishara, we have heavy casualties from those last two enemy salvos.
That hit on the aft turret with our shields down was really bad. It completely destroyed our hyperdrive module and destabilized our reactor. The section of the ship from the aft turret to the stern is only barely attached to the rest of the ship! Main power is functioning but highly unstable and is still not responding to our attempts to shut it down. We have atmospheric leaks all over the ship!"

"
Stand by to receive our cutter, Captain Helmsford, they are departing now and should be there in a few minutes. Perhaps you should send over your wounded first."

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