The Cutting Edge 9

The Cutting Edge
Chapter 9 Draft (02/16/08)

Aladin and company were out at the hyper limit of Marais and about to transition. Pavel Tsarinstyn, back again after a four week absence, was on the command deck and going to run the exercise. His numbers agreed with Captain Voinovich’s to three decimals. The first time he had been that close and so he was getting a reward.– His first jump to hyper.

Lt Cmdr. Roger Langston, the ships first officer, was on the bridge and talking to Stan while the countdown continued.

“No news is good news, but it sure would be nice if we could report back with what it’s like down there,” Langston said in a relaxed tone of voice. He wasn’t in charge of this jump so relaxation was easy.

“It was a good move,” Voinovich answered in reply, “giving them the two pulse generators. If they had needed to use them it would have shown us the were in the open. An EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) as strong as the ones they generate would look like a military reaction, an attempt to cut the Calps communications. But we, or anyone else for that matter, would find it a signal impossible to miss. So odds are very high that they haven’t been found out yet.”

“I’m leaving the bridge Roger. Let’s not make Pavel any more nervous than he ought to be. Relive Pavel after the transition and send him to my cabin. A drink and a good word will be in order.

* * *
Ali Madiman Badr, Captain of the Caliphate Battle Cruiser Golan Heights, was senior to the Commander of the Sinai and thus in command of the two ship defense force left behind after the successful deployment on Mizar. Sharif Shehzad Tanweer, and the Regulations Compliance Office had done their work well. The landings went very well indeed. They lost fewer than 300 troops in taking the planned objectives, only 3% of their forces and no ship losses whatsoever. Rashid Mohamed Kalid the task force Commander has also turned out better than expected despite rumours to the contrary. Badr felt a certain sense of pride but could not say he was pleased, When Kalid and his Sword of the Prophet along with the two, now empty, transports left the system.

Badr had made a point of talking to Kallid concerning how best to situate his ships. The Army had been given very exacting plans. The Navy did not do the same. Badr’s orders on that point merely said take up position and defend the system against any and all attack until reinforced.

Prior to their last meeting, before Kalid and the Sword departed Badr spoke to Kalid, a man he had come to respect. “I cannot say, Captain Kalid, that I know exactly how you felt at the end of the battle for Altoona, but I can say I have come to complete agreement with your course of action and that I now know how you felt before it started. Would you be so kind as to review the way I intend to set my defenses? I have the overall plan here along with the reasons for the various choices I made.” he said extending a data clip.

Kalid looked at him quizzically.

“Please, do not missinterpret my intentions. I do not ask for sanction and approval, only an honest evaluation based on your own experience.”

“This I will do with some interest,” Rashid answered him. “I will summon you when I have finished my review.”

Badr felt relief when summoned two days later to the Flagship. Kalid had already announced his departure and time was getting very short.

“I agree with most of what you have decided, Captain Badr, but I cannot evaluate its utility. Without knowing what forces that you might have to go up against before being reinforced only Allah knows the heart of the matter. With that said it is a given that you will fight and destroy any force of equal magnitude. Should you encounter a force so much your superior as to make that an impossibility you will have to make the same decision I did. Duty or honor. I have learned they are not always seen as the same thing.

“I will mention something I am sure you must be aware of. In a worst case scenario, no matter how the odds appear; to retire without a fight will end your career and probably your life as well. But the Caliphate must have more information, the kind that shows the true capabilities of the infidels ships and weapons. With that in mind I will tell you now what changes I would make to this plan were I to be remaining behind and responsible for its success. Should you accept any of them it is upon you and you alone that judgement for good or ill shall be made.”

* * *
Admiral Raymond on the Saratoga gave the order that all in the small task- force were waiting for and the countdown started. The Saratoga, Eagle, Novi, and Atropos emerged in normal space with a separation of light seconds between them. There were quantum effects when it came to timing that made it impossible for any closer spacing. And a good thing too. The odds of two ships trying to occupy the same space at the same time were infinitesimal. Now to locate Carpathian.

Five hours later, by the low level neutrino radiation from her drive, they found her. Two days later the five ship fleet were within visual range of one another.

“A remarkable improvement in your station dear girl, by the life of me, remarkable,” Colonel Baisil Ramseyer said when seeing Jamie Madry for the first time since Witherway in the SwiftStrike’s docking bay. “Wouldn’t have believed it possible, but well deserved from the reports I read.”

Jamie wouldn’t have stood for that tone of voice used by anyone else, but Ramseyer, from New Britain acted that way with everyone and it wasn’t an affectation but part of his nature and planetary culture.

“Here, here!,” he added, “All’s well with the world and look at you now, a full Captain no less and with a new ship.”

“Why thank you Basil, dear man—May I introduce you to the rest of my officers, and then accompany you to the staff meeting?”

Capital, just capital!”

Admiral Raymond asked the Captain of the SwiftStrike, Hugo Burgeron, to host the meeting for a number of reasons, some practical some political. Both the SwiftStrike and her sister ship Atropos were class 2 vessels, older and much larger than the Saratoga. The Cardoman transports were class 2 as well and designed for cargo and passengers but they were both severely overcrowded and this arrangement worked to show the people on the Novi ships that Raymond, and Calvert as overall commander, recognized the cooperative nature of the venture.

Captain Burgeron welcomed or was introduced to to each new participant as they entered the room set asside for this conference part social familiarization and part planning conference. On the Naval side were all ships Captain’s each with an aide. On the Military side were, Calvert and Grayson, Ramseyer, his chief of staff Lewellyn Waterford, and Captain Nesburg of Cardoman Intelligence. Calvert’s clerk, Cpl. Bryce, was also present to handle recording and in case Wesley might have need of him. A live feed of the discussion was being sent to all the ships in the fleet and anyone with the time to spare was free to watch. Most did.

Wes Calvert stood up from his position at the head of the table and the room became silent. He paused just long enough for a smile and a nod and began speaking.

“I am not going to talk about our plans right now, though we will get to that soon enough. I will address why we are getting into this fight. That is common knowledge known internally and supported by all of us, but it needs to be stated explicitly. What I will do after that is talk about how we will operate to form a unit stronger than any of its individual pieces. I am making these comments not just for those here but for every person on every ship in the fleet.”

“In war, victory is the main thing, but it is not the only thing. That kind of attitude works only in the short term, sometimes the very short term. I am sure most of you have heard about wining all the battles and losing the war. That has happened more than once. It usually comes from forgetting what one is fighting for in the first place. The purpose of a war, any war, is not to defeat your enemies on the field of battle. It is to make sure that when the last battle is won the beliefs that caused you to fight are supported and sustained.”

“We are not fighting to prevent Sylvan from falling to the Caliphate so that her people can remain as they were, subject to a different government and one more in line with the kind of personal freedom we enjoy. That would be fine for individual operators who believe strongly that a harm done to one is done to all. Governments don’t work that way. I’ll state what Cardoman’s motivation is and it applies to all governments supporting us.”

“If we don’t stop or slow down the Caliphate now we will have to do it later at a much greater cost in lives and treasure. And the lives and treasure will be ours and our families, and not just the people on Sylvan. So our immediate goal, that of aiding Sylvan, though honorable and just, is not the main goal, which is to stop the Caliphate from expanding.”

“Once we understand that, we need to make sure that we act in as efficient a manner as possible to achieve our ends. And how we do that is what I will address next.”

“An army without discipline is nothing but a mob writ large. That fact has been demonstrated historically so often that there comes a tendency to think that discipline is the key to success in warfare. It is certainly a key but without planning, and logistics it is never enough. And even with planing and logistics it still may fail. Carl Von Clausewitz, a thousand year ago said it best. “A plan never survives contact with the enemy.” What does survive is knowledge of the goal and initiative. These two things can bring victory when all else fails.”

“I am saying this to everyone in this room and more importantly to everyone watching or who hears of it at a later date. And my first general order is to make sure that this message gets out. This is not something to pay lip service to this is something that each of us, myself included will be judged upon. Yes, there is a time and place for secrecy, intelligence sources, supply points and pre-battle timing are a few such things. But operational details and objectives and what we hoping to archive out of any given action are not the kind of thing to hold back on.

“Anyone in this command, who has time to give an operational brief and ask for feedback, and fails to do so, will be removed from that command and given a job more suitable, perhaps burying the dead that they will be in part responsible for. I say in part because the larger responsibility will be mine for not seeing the problem earlier.”

“Captain Nesburg will now give a general overview of what we know or strongly suspect we will find once we get in system. When she is finished we will cut the video feed and begin to firm up our operational orders. Those plans and orders will be discussed with the people we ask to carry them out. This I can assure you!.”

Major Calvert resumed his seat and Nesburg took over.
“Come back to the Sara with me Basil we have some talking to do about old times and overall strategy for the present to discuss. And Connie, Captain Melbourne, mentioned she did so want to see you.”

“Just the thing, I shall follow your lead.”

And they went directly to the waiting shuttle leaving the conference room still mostly full.

Connie met Wes and Ramseyer when the returned to the Saratoga. “Colonel,” she said saluting and smiling radiantly, “it is a pleasure to see you again.”

Returning the salute and gesture Basil said, “Dear dear girl, it has been far too long I am sure.”

Turning to Wesley, Melbourne said, “Boss’n Miller has everything set so unless Colonel Ramseyer would like to tour the ship first we can get started.”

“I think the tour would be best,” Wes said. “The discussions we had on the SwiftStrike gave me a few items to included into the show and I want to get them added before we start.”

“Jornal,” he said to the petty officer in charge of the boat-deck whose name tag he remembered reading when they left for the SwiftStrike, “do you think you could find someone to give Colonel Ramseyer a quick, say forty minute long, tour of the ship and then bring him to my cabin?”

“It would be an honor Sir,” the petty officer replied. “But please sir, let me com Cmdr Matson and let him know, with the Captain away he would have my ass if I didn’t alert him so he could alert the rest of the crew to look extra sharp.”

“Do it just that way petty officer. Baisil I’ll see you in a few. And Connie feel free to accompany the Colonel but first get word to the other company officers to be in my cabin at that time also. Oh, one more thing,” he said to petty officer Jornal, “Captain Grayson should be back from the SwiftStrike on the next shuttle, pass the word to him when he gets here.”

“Yes Sir!”

Wesley’s cabin was the largest on the ship after Admiral Raymond’s. In reality it was Jamie Madry’s, the large one removed from the bridge. Wes had protested moving her out at first but she said. “Major, you have to go along with this, it’s the way things have always been done in the Navy and I’ve already bumped Vernor and everything lower down is already settled.”

“Ok if that’s how it’s done thats how we do it. Could you have someone bring in a small desk and display for Corporal Bryce to use when he is on duty? I think I’ll do most of my work here.”

“Consider it done!”

“Thank you all for being prompt,” Wesley said to the assembled officer corps, “We still have a few minutes before the presentation is out of the graphics lab so first a toast to success.” When his clerk Bryce had finished pouring Wes said, “One for yourself too Corporal, you will represent all those who aren’t with us right now so do it up right.”

Even with the prompting Bryce only filled his glass half way to the brim.

The Saratoga’s Captains Cabin was a slice right out at the hull. As such the slight curve of the wall and video screen added depth of field to a a shot that had not yet been proofed.

“This first is nothing we haven’t all seen before. Just or projection of the planetary locations and probable locations for the Calp ships. Admiral Raymond is still talking this out but I’m 90% sure we are going to jump as close to the planet as we can and not try to sneak a peak in advance. If we were sure of being able to do that without being detected it would make sense, but if we were found out there goes the surprise factor.

“For our purposes then the show starts when we send the first shuttle loads down to the surface.”

Wes hit the play button and the view of the planet expanded to fill most of the wall and the landing sites were highlighted in blue. “Before we need to launch I am expecting to confirm, I won’t go into detail just how as that is not an operational concern, that these are indeed the landing sites. I won’t be surprised to find we make some changes but this is where the Calps pre-deployment plans said they would be.

“Harmony, the largest continent/island should be the base for the majority of their troops, 70% of better. The nearby large island Accord was set for 20% with the rest, about two 500 man battalions locating where needed; likely thousands of miles away in one of the populated island groups. Accord is where we concentrate our forces. Between the Seventh and the Brits we number about 1400.

“The Calps will know we are in system long before we can reach the planet and start our drops, so strategic surprise is tactically impossible. What we will do is make it look like we are going directly for the capital on Harmony so that the landing on Accord is an unexpected new development so far as Calp preparations are concerned. Our best, maybe our only hope of winning rests on this working so let us all make sure that it does.”

The inevitable tension building up ever since leaving Cardoman ratcheted up another not when Jamie Madry sent to all ships. “We are cleared for transition. On my Mark. Two..One..Now!”

Thirty seconds later, her Second Officer, Fullson Lovell announced, “Fifty seven light minutes out, all ships close at hand. And just a few seconds later, “Two Calp battle cruisers detected, three pickets we can assume are armed.” And in a few more seconds, “All but one of the pickets look to be able to engage us before we can reach the planet.”

On the flag bridge Admiral Raymond and Major Calvert listened to the reports now arriving from their other ships and watched the display narrow down the locations of the Calp defenders and start assigning them vectors.

“Almost as good as we could have hoped for. We got here before the reinforcements did so we execute plan One. Anything to add Les?.”

“No, nothing for now. I’ll pass the word we form up and head inward. We’ll be on our way for almost an hour before they even know were here.”

* * *

Alarms sounded throughout the Golan Heights, and brought an end to the hope that they were just going through the motions and awaiting reinforcements and relief. Fifty-two minutes after the the infidels were detected Ali Madiman Badr gave the first order to his fleet. “The Caliphate has been invaded. Join to me. Allah Akbar!”

In another hour he had a good read on the numbers of incoming and where they were headed, he could see that he was outnumbered and outgunned; now he a very tough decision to make. With only two hyper capable ships in system, the Golan and the Sinai, who should live and who would die?

A few minutes later they could see the ships were heading inwards and they had a positive ID on four of them. Two third generation battle cruisers from Novi and two armed transports from Cardoman. The other ship was forth generation. One they had no record of but it was a near perfect match for the Cardoman Aladin. Would they open communications? And if so how long.? Badr had sent out a warning telling the infidel that they were violating Caliphate space and to cease and desist by the time their signal reached him.

“Caliphate Ships Golan Heights and Sinai; in response to a request for a courtesy call from the legitimate government of Sylvan we are on a peaceful mission.” It seemed their knowledge of Caliphate ships was as complete as was his awareness of their own. “You seem to be placing your selves in our way. Any attempt to interfere with out orderly passage will be resisted with whatever force is needed. Consider before you continue in such a reckless fashion. CNS Saratoga, speaking for Admiral Lester Raymond…End of message.” And then it repeated.

“Get me the political officer.” Badr said, and turned once more to the display screens.

Major Kandouhaur Raed, a twenty year veteren of the Political Directorate looked every inch the part. From the luster of his boots on up past a double row of ribbons ornamenting his dark brown uniform tunic to to the three rope like band on his kahki colored shoulder length burnoose he exemplified bureaucracy. He had been admiring himself in his full length door mirror and regretting that capes were not worn on warship when the call to the bridge reached him. Wasting no time he strode of to answer the call.

With a stylized gesture, touching first his forehead, then chest then, just above the belt, he said, “Captain, how may I be of Service?”

“At ease Major,” Badr answered with a well hidden contempt. Peacocks such as this belonged in royal gardens, not on warships, especially one he commanded. “Have a seat Major,” and Badr indicated a vacant spot next to his signals officer Lieutenant Deija. I want a first response within the hour warning them away. And begin thinking about what we will say when they are close enough for normal communications to take place.”

“And when might that be Captain?” Major Raed asked.

“Twenty hours until we are close but I want to see what you come up with as soon as possible.”

“It shall be as your wish,” Raed said with another ostentatious salute before taking the proffered seat.

Shortly thereafter the first message was complete for Captain Badr’s approval.

“Send it Liutenant,” he said to Deija. “I want the next before you leave the bridge Major,” Madiman said.

“What is it you wish me to say?” asked Raed.

“You are the Political Officer! You tell me what I should say!” was the reply and Kandouhaur Raed started feeling the heat for the first time this voyage.

* * *

“Ma’am we’ve got their first communication,” the Sara’s first officer, Vernor Matson said to Captain Madry.

“Send it to the Flag Plot. I’ll look at it in a minute, as soon as I’m finished here.” Jamie was finalising the course corrections to insure that all ships were in the right spot at the right time just outside of the Calp ships missile envelop. at least so long as they stick to their present course of action.

Against common sense the two Calp battle cruisers with the smaller ships on the wings were on courses that were going to put them between the fleet and the planet. That information was sent up to Admiral Raymond and Major Calvert as fast as she was seeing it. She expected to be called to Flag Plot and wasn’t disappointed. When she reached the room two decks down Captain Nesberg and Wesley’s clerk Bryce were the only two attending the Admiral and Major in a room suitable for four times that number.

“Where is everyone,” were the words she spoke upon entering.”

“Sent them all to get some sleep,” Wesley smiled. “Nothing we can do here for the next sixteen hours or more so we might as well get rested up while we can. I want you to do the same Captain Madry.”

“Just what I am thinking Sir, the only thing I can think of that might harm us, now that we know the location of their ships, is if they have had enough time to put out mines of stealthed missile launchers. I am about to order a shuttle from each of the war ships ahead of us to sweep the way just in case.”

“We’re on the same wave length Captain,” Raymond said. “That was going to be by next order. Turn the job over to Cmdr. Langston and get your self a meal and some sack time. We will talk again in about ten hours. Oh, and congratulations on the jump. Your timing was impeccable as always.”

Twelve hours later with Cmdr Matson getting some rest and Lieutenants. Lovell and Shearing on the command deck, Jamie was back in Flag Plot.

“You’ve seen the reply?” Admiral Raymond inquired.

“Yes sir, nothing we didn’t expect there. But they do look to be holding their position and that is not good.”

“We can hope it changes but we can’t count on it. When do you plan to pull back the shuttles?”

“Sent the word just before I walked in here Sir. I have our second contingent fanning out towards the Calp Pickett ships. Gave them firm orders not to engage unless fired upon or if an attack run is underway. The Calp pickets have more of an offensive thrust than do our shuttles, but since all of ours ships are new models we can run rings around them to make up for most of the disadvantage.”

“That may well be true,” Wes Calvert said, but we can’t afford to lose any of them. We need them all for our landing on Sylvan. Make sure they know that all we want is for them to cause delay if things come to that. No losses and no battle damage. We can clean up on the two battle cruisers and handle the pickers later.”

“Noted sir! I’ll see that gets sent out under your signature.”

“Thanks Jamie, we still have an awful lot of hurdles to jump before we can even start the race.”

“Our first message seems to have had no effect Major,” Captain Badr said to his now slightly less composed Political Officer. “It is time we sent the second, don’t you agree?”

Not wanting to say a word that might implicate him in the results to come but knowing he must, Kandouhaur Raed meekly gave his consent. “It shall be as Allah wills. Allah Akbar, God is great and as he wills it shall be.”

Eric Shearing, the youngest of the Saratoga’s officers, was first to see the incoming message sent from what was now identified as the lead Caliphate ship, the Golan Heights. He wasted no time in checking that it was alerted and on its way to the Flag bridge where his ships captain was communing with the other lessor gods. He found it curious that he did think of them almost as Gods but modestly in lower case.

The fact that both his father and mother were high ranking members of the Cardoman government hadn’t made things any easier for his Navy career thus far, and in fact at first caused some good natured ribbing to come his way. Not much of that now and blessedly no one was trying to butter him up for the sake of future prospects. There was that certain ensign back in training, but she was just a nice memory now.

He kept his attention on the board but wasn’t surprised when Captain Madry came up to the Flight Bridge.

“Here’s our response Lieutenant, send it off.”

He inserted the data card and sent the message on its way.

“Put it on the ships net. I think everyone will want to here it.”

On the Golan Heights Badr read what was sent and felt in his soul the chill winds of war blowing. “Send it again to Major General Gomma,” he ordered Deija, his signals lieutenant. I want to be sure he as every bit as much time to prepare as we do. On rotation release everyone to prayer. We will sound battle alarm in one hour.”