A Point of Honor 2

A Point of Honor
Chapter 2 Draft (03/12/09)

The view on in the main display of Saratoga’s flag plot was the default view showing the entire area of space colonized over the last seven centuries. Admiral Jamie Madry, Captain of the Sara, was studying it and thinking about a book, ‘The Roots of the Current Conflict.’ A book that Major Calvert cherished and often talked about, and one he made sure all of his officers read. He also had them take notes and listen to the notes he made himself years ago as a cadet at the Jorgen Military Academy. The book gave a brief history of events from the first human expansion up till the events of fifty years past. Jamie could hear his voice repeating words almost verbatim from a lecture once attended:

“In the year 2112 the first extra-solar colony was started by those fleeing distant Earth and the world wide Islamic Caliphate. For fifty years, starting from that date, the Caliphate was content to let those dissidents leave with no opposition whatsoever, provided they could pay the freight. When that period was complete, over 150 million independent souls had taken advantage of the opportunity. Eleven colonies had been successfully established and two more attempts ended in failure.

“Until 2244, the Caliphate maintained desultory relations with the established planets and allowed migration. But no more of the Earth’s resources were to be used in constructing additional ships. After 2244 all off planet migration was stopped and even trade stagnated.”

“In 2262 the Caliphate, after undergoing a fundamentalist religious revival, started its own expansionist phase. It built and then sent out a fleet which was able to retake two of the formerly free worlds, Marjoram and Verdure. Others would have fallen but instead the Caliphate changed course and started setting up its own colonial satraps. While this was in progress she was satisfied to gnaw away at the other settled worlds within what it considered her own sphere of influence, restricting commerce was the main tactic used at this time.

“Over the next 120 years the Caliphate became increasingly more aggressive and was able to conquer another three of the early colony worlds Philomel, Jersey, and Grange but by then, its religious fervor sated, the first military expansion came to a halt and with that ended further colonization efforts. By this time there were 38 planets owing not only allegiance but subservience to the Terran Caliphate.”

“The remaining planets settled by those who left Earth seeking political and religious freedom were at a severe disadvantage in any armed struggle with the Caliphate, both in population and technologically. In 2262, at the start of the new hostilities, the population of the Earth was in an enforced stable state at 17.5 billion, the eleven successful Pre-Confederation colonies and the five offshoots they had already started, totaled just under one and a half billion. The newly established Caliphate planets were at least equal to their combined population.”

“Due to the amount of trade driven contact between Earth and the only very loosely aligned other worlds run from the Caliphate the scientific knowledge base was roughly equal everywhere. But the huge disparity in population and especially population on any given planet meant that what we now call the Confederation of Free Worlds could not manufacture in fact what they could produce in theory. This was true most critically when it came to the building of interstellar spacecraft.”

“The smallest of the first generation starships massed, excluding fuel for in system use in excess of two hundred thousand tons. A few of the later models of these are still around represented by a the surviving G-1’s It took a large and mature industrial base, to produce the component parts required to construct these monsters. It wasn’t until 2287, that collaboration in the Confederation enabled the first shipyards on Enderlin, and Novi, and shortly thereafter the one on Llanfairn to be built. At the time none of those worlds could independently make all of the necessary component parts, but that was their start. These second generation ships were made at the rate of two or three a year and still massed well over a hundred thousand tons.”

“The ConFed was able to stave off outright economic defeat and cultural assimilation by the time the Caliphate next stopped to consolidate its gains, and afterwards in 2383, went into a second expansionist phase”

Jamie knew of course that over time the gross weights of both early classes of ships had come down. The surviving G-1’s were now about 180.000 tons and the still very common G-2’s like the Eagle a little over 60,000 tons when unladen. In her mind part of another lecture started as she kept looking at the display. It showed a globe of stars roughly three hundred light-years in diameter with the Earth near the center; Caliphate, Confederation and Indie worlds sparkling in different colors.

The Caliphate planets were concentrated in the central region and then a shell of the Feddies and on the outside the majority of the Indies. There was a certain amount of intermingling and a denser clustering, one of several, in the Llanfairn sector where both Novi and Cardoman resided.

The first G-1’s could span that distance, or go from the center to the rim and back in about six months. The newest G-4’s cut the time down to four. Ship speed in hyper was approximately equal to the squire root of the number of a ship’s drive bands.

As more people entered the flag plot until all seats were filled Jamie increased the magnification to a focus centered on a single system.

In orbit around Novi, acting as the reserve squadron, sat the entire Cardoman Navy, what was left of it. Two more ships added to the list from what was left after fleeing Cardoman, bent and battered by Admiral Kahn and his task force. The additions bringing their total to seven ships totally assimilated. And another one was still in the Novi yards being worked on for commissioning as soon as it could be completed. It had been a busy, exhausting even six months, with more of the same in the offing.

Jamie Madry on her flag Saratoga had the other Cardoman Captains, and most of their officers on board the flagship. She had called them together to go over the latest action reports and lay out the strategic position, as she, her staff, and the Novi command structure saw it: the ultimate purpose; review and comment; what have we missed, where have we gone wrong? Afterwards would come the Cardoman Seventh’s annual meeting ‘Naval Section.’

The Infantry part of that review like always would still be held back home on Cardoman. It would be much smaller than in years previous, but Jamie was sure it would still happen on schedule and by the numbers. She would include her report as a packet on the next ship out. There was tradition to uphold and to do less was unthinkable. After her own show and the general meet she had another group session set with the politicos on Novi. She wasn’t looking forwards to the experience.

The once Calp owned ship Salat, captured by her cousin Audie along with Jameson and Zavala, was now renamed the Essex II and under the command of Mark McCormack. The SnapDragon was under Vernor Matson, Jamie’s own former First Officer. Joe Speedway, who had been Exec of the Aladin, was the captain of the newly named Admiral Raymond. One of two freshly captured Calp G-3’s.

Audie Madry, reunited with Yuri Borselov, had a captured G-2 to tear apart and rebuild. She wasn’t saying just what it would be when they were finished but Foreign Minister Victor Shearing, here for both meetings, didn’t begrudge the cost. It was going to be something quite different but at least the equal in battle of a normally up-armored G-2 M was all she would say publicly. What it would be beyond that was not something anyone, not even those in this room, were authorized to talk about privately till she was finished. And likely not even then.

“Before I get started full bore why don’t you tell us about the taking of our latest addition Stan?” Jamie addressed this to the Aladin’s Captain Voinovich her Captain of the Fleet and onetime lover. A relationship painfully held in abeyance till all this was over, or he was out of her chain of command.

“Joe should tell this, he did the dirty work.” Voinovich said.

Joe Speedway, the newly made Captain was somewhat startled. To those around him his changed expression was caused by the sudden request to speak but it was in truth caused by being recalled to the present. He had been lost in thought, reflecting on the path that had got him here.

He was the newly placed acting First Officer on the G-4 Aladin when Lester Raymond took the ship and Stan Voinovich out on her maiden voyage racing after Jamie Madry, when the Admiral still Captained the Eagle, out at Altoona. That was where he saw a ship die for the first time; the Llanfairn Cruiser Brisbane. And where he watched from a distance as Madry took her woefully under armed ship up against the Calp Sword of the Prophet, inflicting enough damage while taking her own that she convinced the Sword’s Captain to retreat rather than risk even more damage and the chance to bring word back to Earth. Jamie’s actions saved the lives of all of the Seventh still fighting on Altoona and justified her selection to command.

When Roger Langston hired in and took over Aladin Joe resumed his permanent Second Officer slot. He had no complaints, quite the contrary, knowing how much more he had yet to learn. He went back to First when Langston was promoted out to the Dragon and fought in every Cardoman action since. Still he found it extraordinary, being the Captain and all that entailed on his own ship, the Admiral Raymond.

Joe went up front and told the story again, something he had not done more than a couple of dozen times already. “I have to say that the real credit belongs to Zavala and his marines. I was mostly the bus driver.”

“As all of us know when we first started commerce raiding the pickings were easy. The Calps hadn’t told any of their merchant captains what was going on. Even the Calp Navy seemed to be behind. That changed of course two months ago when word of Cardoman being captured reached Earth. But by then we had taken seven unescorted cargo carriers, 2’s and 3’s, and I was bringing the G-2 Perseus, the ship that Captain Audie Madry is working on now, taking it back to Novi.”

“We were going to pass so close to Jubilee that I figured it a shame not to drop in and take a look. Especially since Major Zavala and some of his men were with us. We came in an hour outside the limit and saw the Calp G-3 and decided to jump out of there as no good was going to come from hanging around. But when we tried to transition, nothing happened. Equipment failure, the condition of that ship was a disaster when we took her and we weren’t even close to setting her right.”

“I had Cmdr Ellsberg with me and he said he could make her swim again but it was going to take a couple of days and the Calps were only eleven hours away. We had all the ship’s data open to us and with as bad as Calp communications with non military ships was it wasn’t much trouble convincing the G-3 that we were just one of their own on a routine cargo run.”

“She ordered us to proceed towards her; and that was no problem because it was only the jump gear that was acting up. When we got close they ordered us to lay along side for an inspection. Her scans showed we had nothing on board that could possibly threaten a Calp warship. Miles had jiggered the drive and if worse came to worse I was ready to bail out and blow both ships but Major Zavala asked for a chance.”

“Well. . . We were so close that he took his men across free form, just their armor and weapons, electronic jammers and chemical explosives. The Oman had their docking port open, Zavala went inside, and the rest is history.”

“And you, Captain Speedwell have our renamed G-3 Admiral Raymond to command and deservedly so.” Jamie took over again getting right back on point. “Our commerce raiding days are over, at least for now. The Calps have word out to all of their civilian ships and our duty is going to keep most of us here around Novi. We will continue popping in and out at Cardoman and do the same at a random sampling of Calp planets. We need to do something to make them spread their forces over a wide area so they all don’t come to Novi at once.”

“I’ve borrowed Marty Vogel from the Novi Navy and he is going to fill us in on the Novi side of things. — Captain Vogel, you are up.”

Marty took his place in the front and began reading from his briefing notes, “We have had occasional Calp ships observing the system for five months now. They transition in and then run away when we send someone out after them. The numbers have been picking up until for the last two weeks there has never been less than five of them watching at the same time and the numbers keep growing. Just before I came here the latest report shows eight ships hanging just outside of the hyper limit.”

“With every ship of our own, and those ones you have turned over to us and that we are working up, and of course your own Cardoman fleet on guard; there is nothing the Calps can do right now; except kill off a large part of our commerce. And that is bad enough. But we all know that this situation is temporary. Unless a general war breaks out we stand to be the next system hit. The Calps are claiming we are the only other system on their list; and they will even forgo an attack on us if reparations are made for what went on at Cardoman. All lies of course, but pretty lies for those wanting to believe.”

“The Novi General Staff projects the situation as it is will hold for another three months, maybe longer. The Calps could bring in enough ships at one fell swoop to beat down any defense in depth we can throw up. But if they do that, and instead of fighting we go for one of their systems, the game might not be worth the candle. If it comes to an attack on Novi we will fight it here, at least that is what I think we do. But even I am not enough of a mind reader to say what our General Staff really thinks. We are in any event letting information leak that we intend to take the war to the Caliphate before defending Novi to the death.”

“It will be system patrol and waiting for the foreseeable future, except for those fortunate enough to watch Cardoman or go out and make a feint at a Calp system. Ultimately our fate is determined by what happens on the diplomatic front. How much additional support we get from off planet.” Vogel nodded and gave the meeting back to Madry.

“Thank you Captain,” she said. “We’ll go informal now and I want to hear from everyone, especially suggestions for things we can do without risking Novi in the process. Then we will take a short break, transfer over to the Widow, and start our Seventh’s yearly business meeting.”

Kathryn Marquette’ shuttle was the first to leave the Sara so she could get back and make sure all was ready on the Widow for the general meeting.

Audie Madry would open and be the first to speak at the general meeting; she was the most senior out here at Novi of all who had been with the Seventh and the Major from the beginning. The Seventh had started out as a mercenary company, more aptly as a shot in the dark, when the fracas on Witherway ended some five or six years ago. Out of work and with little prospect for more, Lieutenant Wesley Calvert and Staff Officer Connie Melbourne, now Connie Calvert, along with the few dozen of his company who survived Witherway managed a contract on Ophia.

Robbie Davis was a sergeant back then and Audie herself a sergeant tech, Fader Jameson a corporal. From that small beginning, with a few prizes and fights along the way, and a lot of luck, everything else just snowballed. The big leg up was that Wes was from Cardoman, and due to his family history; his father was deceased hero of the last war. His early successes got a lot more consideration than someone else in his position could ever have received.

The Seventh proved their worth to Cardoman on Marais and Altoona. So here she was addressing more than a thousand members of the Cardoman Navy and Fleet Marine Force. Cardoman was occupied, the Major in hiding, the fleet half of what it once was and with the Calps on the verge of another try for dominion over all human space, with a very uncertain future ahead. But what a ride!

From the start Audie had been optimistic and excitable; some said crazy was more the word. Over time she hadn’t changed all that much, but the Major, and because he was the Major he could do no wrong in Audie’s eyes, saddled her with more and more responsibility, and though she fought it she obeyed.

Just as he predicted she came through every test. She wasn’t going to fail this one either and the first job was to support Novi, and keep the moral up till they could do something else. She was always working on the something else. Since she so seldom worried herself, and never publicly, her enthusiasm was contagious.

Jamie Madry took a place in the back and watched. She was Admiral of the Fleet but was just a commercial ship’s officer when Audie helped recruited her into the Seventh. From where she sat there were three magical people responsible for where she was, Audie, Major Calvert, and Lester Raymond. Robbie Davis was responsible for much of Seventh success on the ground but he hadn’t affected her own position like the other three. She didn’t realize that for many of the rest seated in the largest room on the G-1 Widows Walk she seemed semi-mythical as well.

Audie had been conducting this annual meeting for years now, ever since Calvert put her in charge of the books, so Jamie leaned back and relaxed for a change. Her turn was coming next.

* * *
Pavel Tsarinstyn was pilot of the lander, he was the new First Officer on Aladin, so many promotions and transfers, only the database knew where everyone stood. He wouldn’t get many more chances to show off his virtuosity operating a lander or shuttle. Jamie and Audie were engaged in what could only be termed gossip if their ranks were any less lofty.

“You should have brought Yuri along, I am sure he could use a break from refitting the Perseus. And have you thought of a new name for her yet?”

Audie smiled and said, “I think I am going to keep the old name. A thumb in the eye of the Calps and I kinda’ like it anyway.— But getting Yuri off the ship? I am not sure even a direct order or a pry bar would suffice. As the Engineering Officer he gets to do all of the things I wish I were doing myself.”

“You know you deserved the Salat, the Essex II don’t you?”

“Not a bit of envy Jamie, none whatsoever, nowhere near room enough on that ship as I have on a G-2, and boy we need room. You can’t imagine all of the equipment Yuri is bringing up from Novi.”

“I don’t need to imagine, I see the requisitioning paperwork. How much longer till you are satisfied?”

“She’ll be out of the dock in less than a month and we are going to have one of the finest off planet research labs and workshops ever put into a ship in space. Between the two of us and the others on board as well, we are going to make damn good use of it too!”

“Touch down in two minutes.” Pavel’s voice came through the seating compartment’s speaker. “Buckle up for safety and thank you for flying Aladin Spaceways.”

Both rechecked their restraints from force of habit, the flight was too short for them to have done anything other than loosen them a bit, and they watched the display echoing the approach to Novi’s spaceport.

“Do you know how Novi got its name Audie?”

“Never gave it much thought.”

“She was the sixth planet colonized out of the Confederation. Roman numerals, number VI.”

“I’ll have to remember that one.” Audie said as the lander touched down.

The government buildings on Novi were all under the dome, the only one still standing; the others dismantled almost 600 years before. Novi was one of the oldest colonies; she was founded during the first expansion and never under Caliphate control. She was also one of the most successful by any measure. The last dome was a small, less than 500 meter diameter, a space enclosed by the early pioneers before terraforming made the entire planet habitable. Around it a city of several million spread in all directions, the spaceport being the only large open area.

Novi was flat, the flattest planet ever encountered. No more than 200 meters between the highest and lowest elevations. With a straight up and down rotational axis and an optimum orbit for temperature, that meant that once a terraformed species took hold it spread like wild fire. Everything combined to make her one of the few Class One level Independents, colonized early and with relative ease.

Another oddity was there was no real salt water ocean, or any other major body of water. There was plenty of water, a third of the planets surface area, but it was all in lakes, streams, and swamps. Drainage projects were still going on after all these years and would continue as far into the future as anyone cared to predict.

To Novi’s detriment, she had no asteroid belt for easy off planet manufacturing and materials access. That fault was made up in part by an airless minor planet far enough from the primary that overheat wasn’t a problem. The system also held an ever so common gas giant with an uncommonly close low orbiting moon, one barely above the atmosphere. It was soon developed as a ready filling station. That moon would be swallowed up in a couple of million years but no one worried about that minor detail except for a few extremists in the green party; every planet had one.

Only two Newsies waited in the terminal when after landing they passed through. Their Novi escorts waved the Newsies away but Jamie insisted on saying a few words. It might not matter here with the local population so much in support, but Jamie knew the press made a difference almost everywhere else. And she had orders to be pleasant and cooperative. Not a hard thing to do on Novi. These people had it figured out. Something in the air? If so they should bottle it and start exporting.

The tone was different in the sub-basement where the military and political people met them a hundred feet below ground level inside and under the dome. Friendly enough but serious and without a hint of fake optimism. From all she had seen, it not for her ties to the Seventh and Cardoman Jamie thought she could live here and fit right in. The attitude here seemed more like that on a well run ship than one found inside any government she was familiar with.

On the military side, standing for Novi, there was Grand Admiral Asbury and Fleet Admiral Talbert Flynn. Flynn to his personal consternation had missed by hours getting to Cardoman with another six ships, part of the Novi fleet that the survivors on Vogel’s Cassandra called the missing squadron. They would have helped but not turned the tide. Just as well the ships were saved; but Flynn felt he needed to make up for the past and was Jamie’s greatest ally in the Novi military. She had met with Asbury only a couple of times and did not know how to read him.

There were three Novi politico’s present, Navy Secretary Rand Bergman, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Milton Gerber, and the Foreign Minister Richard Pellow.

Jamie would have felt out manned here even as Audie wouldn’t mind it in the least but for the fact that Victor Shearing had arrived from Llanfairn three days earlier. He would do the pitching; Jamie was just his back stop. Audie? Well Audie was Audie and nothing would escape her notice for later comment.

The talk started with and kept coming back to shipping, that and logistic and financial details. Little input was required from either Madry except for a word or two about the status of the Widow and Eagle G-2 M in regards to the transport mission. The Eagle was a former civilian ship militarized first by pirates and upgraded again on Cardoman with better defensive measures and 2 tubes for ShipKiller missile with a load out of 10, hence the M stood for militarized. Victor and the three Novi politicos did most all the talking. When it came to military matters it was only: “How much and when?”

It seemed that all the talk was finally gone out of the room when Admiral Asbury said, “Back on Earth Franklin is purported to have once said, ‘We hang together or we hang separately.’ I will add that either way we hang but we can hope for the former.”

Audie looked up and said, “Sir, you have thrown your lot in with us. And we, our own with you. For your support, and for our own honor, we can do no less than Mr. Franklin asks.”

Outside the dome, walking in the open air towards the port some four kilometers distant (after so much time on ship that felt like a luxury) Vic Shearing asked about his son Eric and requested a chance to visit the newly appointed Second Offer of the Essex.

“By all means,” Jamie answered. “Though you probably get to see him only for a very short time now. The Novi yard sent over a team and spent the time to glean what there was to learn about her. I am sending Essex out for the next contact run for a look into Cardoman space. Then she is direct to Llanfairn with dispatches. That gives Mark McCormack a chance to work up the crew and will let Llanfairn get a look at her.”

“Afterward Essex can take you and any of our allies, or people whose minds you hope to change, when you go on to Union. Eric is going to be very busy now but I am sure you’ll have plenty of time together then.”

“You will travel to Llanfairn with Audie on the Perseus, and in all probability arrive first. You will be starting second; but if Audie finishes as fast as she claims, still beat the Essex. But that trip is still a few weeks away. The Essex heads for Cardoman as soon as she is ready, sometime later today. Before she boosts I will ask Captain McCormack to let Eric meet you at the Sara and then take you out to Audie’s ship so you can see her in advance of the jump to Llanfairn. You’ll get to sit up front and Eric gets in some small ship practice and a chance to talk. I have a few things to send back with him for Captain McCormack. The cases are waiting at the port to share the ride back up with us.”

“Cabin stores and provisions for once he gets to Llanfairn. It is tough but I try to think of everything.”