A Very Blue Moon 7

A Very Blue Moon
Chapter 7 Draft (04-17-10)

General Sir Basil Ramseyer, ‘Grand Knight of the Sword. Protector of the Realm’, and holder of most every military honor known to the planet and a few he wore only to dazzle at court, was permitted into New Britain’s Admiralty Building with only minor fanfare; his admittance was a courtesy due to rank and expected. The building itself, a sprawling mishmash of clashing styles that dominated the rest of the city center; the Army had a much smaller presence with most of its activities elsewhere. The larger portion of the Admiralty business was on the commercial but the high officers came without exception from the military side

Basil had come unannounced without so much as a driver or a junior officer to serve as a designated spear carrier. As soon as news of the Calp Fleet reached Army Headquarters and thence to his permanent room on the top floor in the temporary visitors section he left the building for Naval HQ, a place where action was ongoing and information first hand.

Arriving at the Admiralty, a five minute drive; when the General stated he did not want to interrupt the buildings normal routine there was a slight bit of confusion before an overworked petty officer at the security desk took charge and issued him a temporary security clearance and then lead him to a corner in some unused office space on the upper level. A place where construction related to the present emergency was in progress but near complete and no one settled in yet. The room had a single display, internal connections to the mil net, and little else. When a call came in for Basil from Army HQ several hours later it was routed to the building’s Army’s liaison officer, a colonel serving detached from HQ Staff. Basil seemed to have been lost or forgotten.

When a quick check via the locater system failed to find General Ramseyer, because envisioning a shortage of the little used location devices security was saving the locater equipped passes for civilians, the General was paged over the voice system.

“General Ramseyer, please contact Army liaison.” This was repeated twice and a four digit code given. Ramseyer tried his own comm unit and when that failed to connect due to the buildings internal shielding examined the display and its control board closely looking for some kind of microphone or other relay device.

Nothing obvious. And it had taken him a while to figure out the display units library functions which were at least similar to the systems he was familiar with. He left his seat and went into the hallway where at once he ran into one of the buildings security guards, one who was obviously relived to see him, or at least the uniform. Ramseyer had spent so much time off planet in the last five years that even most of the people running Army HQ did not recognize him on sight any more.

While being shown the way to the Army office, a place he was visited many times over and was quite capable of finding himself, who should he run into but Captain Lionel Pomeroy of the rather inaptly named G-2 M Trafalgar, a ship that his been a temporary home more than once while he was off planet engaged in what he thought of with historical precedent as ‘The Great Game’.

“Basil! You’re just the chap I’ve been looking for!” then Pomeroy turned and dismissed the escort.

“Pomeroy, good to see you too old boy, though I can’t imagine why you would be searching for me.”

“We’ve been trying to look into the Calps mind General. Figure out their thought processes and make a stab at charting what they do next. You’ve fought them, both directly and otherwise, so you must have some insight into the way they think.”

“Not as much as you might expect dear boy, I think the Army and Navy have little in common with the Prophet’s minions on that front.”

“Perhaps. And one does never know for certain I am sure. But Admiral Lord Shimmersford would be most pleased if you would sit in on a brief followed by a planning session due to start in,” he looked at a note then pulled an ornate timing device known as a ‘Watch’ , probably due to its built in display, from a fob pocket and said, “Thirteen minutes, give or take.”

“Why of course then, at your service. But first, I must make a short detour as that leaves me time to find out why our Army Office is searching for me. Where shall I meet you?”

“I’ll send someone, nobody is getting past security into Battle Ops without being known to one of the guards or with someone who is, pass or not.”

The reception clerk just inside the open door of the Liaison Office, the navy called it a hatchway, stood to attention the moment the General entered. “Sar!” he saluted, something the navy would never have done under cover and inside of a building, or for that mater except for specific and highly formal occasions on a ship.

“Sergeant Coppersmith isn’t it?” Ramseyer returned the salute and the Sergeant beamed at being recalled. He had served under Ramseyer more than a decade ago and only spoken to him a couple of times as part of a large unit mission simulation.

“Yes Sar!” and he lowered his arm and pressed a button causing a break in the rail of the divider separating the front of the room from doorways, hatches, to the rear.

He must have already pressed another button because the door on the left hand side of the wall opened and a Colonel Ramseyer was not familiar emerged. Salutes were again exchanged and Ramseyer followed him into an eight meter square space crammed with desks and the walls covered by large displays. A table capable of seating eight was over in one corner next to another door that must lead to the Colonel’s office.

Each of the desks was manned and one had on its surface an Army type comm unit. The occupant stood making way and Basil replaced him in front of the view screen. Ramseyer had to place his hand on a touch plate before the screen came to life.

When it did it was his second in command Lewellyn Waterford on the other end. “Found you General, you could make it easier.”

“Keep you on your toes, eh what?” The two went back years and understood all of the unspoken words in a communication that might be monitored at some distant time looking for some reason to call for blame. New Britain over the last thirty years as slid into that direction and was just beginning to change again with the new threat.

“I have all our units ready to move and wanted to let you know. I can not see how the Calps will care but if they try the same thing they did on Cardoman we will be ready.”

“Dispersal’s the thing. Make life difficult if nothing else. Calvert got that one right. Get a move on and go into radio silence. I will join you before the assault wave reaches us.”

“Is it a sure thing that the Calps get that far?”

“I would have said yes an hour ago but there is an undercurrent of activity here at the Admiralty that I can not explain. I must attend a meeting even now and will get back to you. Until I do lets go the Cardoman route and pray for the best.”

“That we will General, that we will.”

Ramseyer had barely managed to close the comm channel when a Naval LT showed to lead him to the admiralty staff meeting.

“So we can bring up the Victory without giving anything away.” said the briefing officer up front.

Basil was a few moments late in arriving and the briefing, planning session, pep talk, whatever it was had begun without him. The room was dark and a ship grade holo tank took center stage. Admiral Lord Shimmersford dominated the room by pacing back and forth on a prepared walkway around the rim of the holographic projection as if he were on the quarter deck of an old time sailing ship. Basil thought this entirely out of place and distracting but said nothing. He had seen Lord Shimmersford put on the same display more than once. Ramseyer now seated was no longer concerned with the theatrical surroundings as he watched the highlighted and magnified real time imagery showing in the central display.

The Victory was a G-1 Colony Ship, purchased by New Britain’s founding generation some three hundred years before. For another hundred years after initial landing it remained in service until repair problems and the newer G-2 class made it obsolete. For a time it served as the planet’s primary orbital station until volume made it an uneconomic entity. After that it was a combination space dock and museum. But as it made more economic sense to build new facilities then add to a platform never intended as a station, it was finally retired from that task and placed in a high orbit where it was used sparingly and many portions closed to the public.

Bits and pieces of the control system were sold but the drive band and fusion plant remained intact. Basil knew all this; reverence for the old ship was a part of the basic education that insured everyone born on New Brittan kept on the same page. Lessons from old Earth showed what happened when things like that were forgot.

“All the while we have been modernizing our fleet units we saved the older systems, in particular the 2 and 3 ShipKillers and their launch tubes and put them onto the museum ship in areas closed to the public. The war ministry with support from the crown resisted selling them off. The threes as you know are almost state of the art, they would be against anyone except the Caliphate, and the twos we have are not that far behind.

“Even as we continued her use as a museum the outer portions of two of the Victory’s cargo decks have twenty seven tubes installed and we average nine reloads for each. There is no reason to think the Calps realize what we have on the Victory so surprise should work for us provided we are right in our estimation of Caliphate intel.”

The holotank changed abruptly as the view chased the Arc Royal and the Jutland just now leaving orbit at very low acceleration then swept outwards to the Caliphate fleet and then beyond it to those from Union.

Basil turned to Captain Pomeroy and asked, “Why are you still hear, and what about the Aubrey?”

“I believe Lord Shimmersford will cover that himself in a few moments after we break from this situational report. Hold on Basil and it will all be made clear.”

The briefing officer continued, “The Federation is going to fight, we have been in contact with them and as much as possible given them direct feeds from our drones and sensor net. Admiral Zubayar is going to fight, there has been no doubt about that from the time he set his fleet between the Federation ships and the planet here. Let me show you how we sim this.”

Extend the line of battle. That was the principal Federation Admiral Cerney chose to honor. The Calp 9th fleet had a vector that was opposite in direction to his own, they could not afford to concentrate on just one or two of his ships or the others would round his flanks and be able to reach New Britain and join with the British Fleet and take positions supported by the planetary defenses. That was the theory and thus far it was holding up.

Zubayar was stretching out his own command in response. The Calp 9th was also killing its outward velocity to lengthen the engagement window and be able to chase after any ships that might get through their own lines. For another hour or so he was in a position to assign several of his ships to any individual Federation vessel. In an engagement at two against one odds the side holding the numerical advantage was near certain to prevail. By now Zubayar was aware of the individual members of the Federation task force and knew also that he had them bettered not only by numbers but by weapons and class type as well. The Federation fleet consisted of only 2 G-4’s the Wm. T. Bradford and the Shark, along with 6 G-3’s.

Projecting forwards in time Abdu Malik, Staff Tac Officer was highlighting the engagement parameters. “We will go 2 on 1 against the center. Those two ships are using only half of their max G. We have been decelerating for the last several hours and will have killed most of our outward vector by the time we get within strike range. The Al-Wazir and Al-Harir anchor either end of our line. Both are G-4’s and fast enough to drive the corresponding ships on the Federation side wider still and take them far from a direct course.”

“And this means,” Zubayar added, “that at least those two ships will be unable to reach New Britain before we do.” The display now showed empty space where the central Federation ships had been and all four of the center most Caliphate ships reaching back towards the planet. “Once we have driven the endmost Federation Units out-side our own end ships will halt that attack and converge with the ships they parallel for another combined advantage against two more of the invaders.”

“As you can see,” Cmdr Malik started up again, “that leaves two single ship contests. In both cases one G-3 against another. We trust our training and tactics will insure we get the best of these fights. I must say it is gratifying to see our initial intel confirmed ‘vis a vis’ remote defensive platforms. They must indeed be concentrated inwards and as of yet we have encountered none of them. All of this information is in the hands of the respective captains. The lightspeed lag will put a premium on independent judgment. In all things it shall be as Allah wills.”

“The Wazir has changed course Captain, given up on the Morris and making for us now.”

Clara Potter, Captain of the G-3 Mt. Soyka clicked her tongue switch twice to show she had heard. Her throat was dry enough that she did not wish to venture a spoken response. She sucked in on her cheeks and swallowed. That didn’t seem to help much.

Everyone on the flight deck was buttoned up and strapped in just as she was even though the closest point for weapons engagement was still almost three hours away. She was going to give here crew a breather towards the end but was making sure they were reacquainted with the different feel and muscle memory one must deal with when strapped down and encased in armor. A small thing but in war, small things grew large.

“Another half an hour and the Mt Morris is around the corner and we can break for the limit.”

She was in a situation she had envisioned all through her thirty year military career; leading a force into battle was something few aspired to and of those few a much smaller number were female. In such a situation as had existed in the, she could call it pre-war Navy now, there was a tendency to ‘Gather up the Wagons’ and work the political side. Clara had resisted and her promotions were earned, hard earned, and everyone knew it.

Others promotions were earned all right, and often more rapidly, just not for the same reasons. When Clara was fresh out of school she had been assigned to a G-2 that was taking troops and supplies to Sheppard at the end of the last war. But the cease fire was sounded and news of that reached Sheppard before her ship arrived and so she never saw action. She had the war medal and wore it proudly but still it was one of those things where others could say she was in the neighborhood and so she got one.

Still that was more than 90% of all active duty officers could claim. Not that she felt it made her special. It was what she had done afterwards that did that. There was an old boy’s network and Clara could see why it existed. A counterforce to the relentless political motive that tried to shape the Confederation Navy into something that won votes which was far different from something that won wars.

But with no war to win in the last generation the inevitable made inroads and the good of the service paid the price. There was more valor to win in leading a squadron of budget requests through committee than in first rank internal fleet fitness reports. In her own career things had paid out in a very odd manner indeed. She had gotten more than her share of top ranked highly capable male officers assigned her ship but not nearly so many of the female type.

To Clara’s mind, and she’d seem it far too often, most female officers went from place to place and were promoted so rapidly and with so much time spent on shore, that they lacked a deep understanding about what it meant to serve shipboard. How could it be otherwise given the political situation?

She had a special one on the Mt Soyka now though; a Lieutenant with three years in grade; one who was in charge of the ship’s reaction forces. What the Confederation called the weapons crew. What made her so special was that Lt Madrie knew every bit as much about the engineering side as the operational side of the systems she was responsible for. The Mt Soyka had two fleet gunnery medals won in the last two fleet wide competitions to prove it.

There was a rumor that she was related to the two famous, at least in the Union Navy, Cardoman Madry’s, but no evidence beyond a common planet of birth and a similar spelling, and Inga Madrie, tall and Nordic in appearance denied any connection whatsoever. She was on the lower gun deck now checking the readouts on each ShipKiller reload first hand rather than using relayed data from the more comfortable position on the bridge. Clara could relate to that, but it was not common.

“Let’s break!” The countdown timer zeroed and the Soyka went south towards the limit at her full 57 G’s. It would take the Calps close to an hour to see what she had done and then another for her to see how they reacted. That delay was something usually dispensed with in a simulation. But now, no such luck. She would sweat out the difference.

On the Wazir, once the vector change was noted, only a momentary pause before the magnetic focus of the ship’s drive took account and she started bending her own track to cut a tighter chord and follow. The Mt Soyka was at max mil power and a full 3 G’s into the uncompensated range. She might as well have spared her crew the strain because even on over-boost she was not going to outrun a G-4 before she made the limit.

On Cardoman SP 188 Julian Kenwood saw what was going on at a few hours remove. Both his ship and 189 with Borselov commanding had been able to kill their outwards vector once the Calps went for bigger game and by now were tending back to the inner system. He had picked up Calp launched drone platforms and then lost them.

Not willing to take a chance on giving up his position and his surviving crew Kenwood elected for communications silence. Between the two shuttle craft there was no problem, they were that close that spillover was not an issue. A signal back to New Britain was another kettle of fish.

He had his officers and professional noncoms gaming out the probable battle and for once Cmdr Borselov didn’t have much of anything to add. It was petty of him but he somehow felt a loss of status due to the situation they were in all due to an idea developed by the unorthodox Borselov. “Get over it,” he thought, and then went back to work.

On SP 189 Yuri had his own fish to fry. These shuttles were stealth landing models, as close to invisible as ever existed. Several orders of magnitude less observable than anything made other than in the Cardoman shipyards before the Calps had taken them out. The Pod drop reload units had been pulled in order to make room for all of the Perseus crew members. They would have served no in any event.

If Kenwood’s expertise could predict the battle even now being fought, and Yuri respected the Captain’s military expertise, Yuri felt certain he could get the two shuttles on a line between the Calp ships and a course for and New Britain. He also had an idea about what they might do once they got there. Time to talk to Kenwood again.

“Carla, would you get me a link to Captain Kenwood? I think we have this thing about as far as we can take it from our end.”

“Signal sent Sir, one moment.” And then Captain Kenwood was on line and Yuri’s focus shifted.

“Ken I got an idea here, what if. . .”

On the Federation G-3 Battle Cruiser Mt Morris they could see a clear path to New Britain now that the Wazir turned inward and her vector cone could no longer intercept. The Calps had committed. In a sim they would have turned back to aid the Soyka as honor demanded. Now with orders to the contrary the unspoken belief was they would watch her die. Honor was a hard master.

On the Flagship Kayer Bek Abdu Malik saw the bright yellow traces trailing the first salvo of ShipKiller Mark V’s slanting towards the center of the Union line. Twenty-five hundred G’s and eight hundred seconds before they could range upon the infidel. Honor was service to Allah.

On the FNS Wm. T. Bradford, Admiral Cerney gave the order to disengage and go into full defensive mode. And hoped enough of his command would survive to make a difference. Honor had nothing to do with it at all, survival and winning was all that mattered. Fighting the ship was in the hands of Captain Ian Fitzsimons and his crew so Cerney watched while trying to plan more fully what to do with whatever the combined forces, both of his and of New Britain’s, that might remain.

“Warheads armed! Free to launch interceptors! Let’s take this first flight out before they get close enough to mess with the sensors!”