Mother and the other ships were loaded to the gills with provisions.
They didn’t know if they could eat their neighbor’s food safely, or drink his water. There were no jump gates to the aliens realm, but with the new high acceleration the Navigation team planned on only about two weeks to get to the neighbor’s space where jump gates would be available, one week accelerating and one week decelerating. The acceleration would be hundreds of incremental velocity leaps. The leaps would be about a quarter of their specified leap limits. They had determined during trials testing of the drone first, and then each individual ship, that internal density differences caused stresses during leaps, which were proportional to the size of the leap. For each design they had developed a leap limit to protect against overstressing. Although the leap limits were very high, the distance was unimaginably great.
After some quick goodbyes to friends on the station the battle group was off. After each leap there was a very short scan period for each ship to assess it’s position and speed relative to Mother. That scan would be used to slightly adjust the next leap. If one was out of quick scan range there were certain predetermined locations and speeds where the group would hold until all ships were back together. It never happened so they didn’t need to test the navigation ability of the individual captains in deep space. When they passed the speed of light all the stars behind them went out and only those ahead could be seen. The faster they went the more the dark sector wrapped forward. At a week they could only see stars almost straight ahead. The color and brightness of the stars also changed as their forward velocity effectively increased the apparent frequency of the light. Longer wavelengths normally invisible came into the visible range as the visible light became ultra violet and beyond. When they finally dropped back below the speed of light and used the alien maps to determine their location they adjusted their navigation plan to account for errors and arrived in the system a day early.
They new from the alien texts that this system had three gates, a large inhabited planet, which was one of the main alien plants and a half dozen space stations. They stopped at a location a good distance from the planet and the gates, and well out of line with all the normal travel routes. They noted a great deal of traffic streaming from the planet and out one of the gates. A second gate had a great number of stationary ships surrounding its exit. From the detected active scan frequencies they were clearly military craft. Obviously they were expecting undesirable company, and soon. A few of the smaller ships broke formation and headed swiftly in their direction. They set the communication block to the primary tactical channel and Hildi, who by this time was fluent in their language, began to speak and transmit a video image. The approaching ships slowed, then stopped part way and a military commander’s image came up on the block. After a short pause Hildi translated:
“You are too weak, leave while you can.”
Glen replied: “We are not so weak. Pull back and let our unmanned drones attack first.”
There was a pause then the alien commander, obviously knowing the desperation of his position, said, “We pull back. God help us all.” The alien ships retreated to a position between the gate and the planet. Glen ordered the drones all launched and moved to take up the positions vacated by the aliens. Then they all waited.
It took two days for the invaders to arrive and the humans had just gone to shift watches when they did. They came in through the gate in waves. Glen only hesitated long enough for the IFF to verify that they weren’t friendly. The alien commander came on at the same time and said a single word “Enemy.” Glen ordered the controllers to lock into the drone’s memories the identification of the enemy ships present and then attack. Immediately chaos broke out. The first wave of invaders fighters sped towards the friendly forces along two vectors. They never got close. It only took a single shot of the drones gravity lances to render them dead in space. The second wave of fighters was just leaving the gate area when the drones finished the first wave and headed back to their positions. By the time they approached the gates the controllers had programmed this new wave in. The second wave scattered and with each ship taking it’s own course of attack. This new tactic was to no avail. They were destroyed just as fast.
There was a pause but then after half and hour a new wave flew in, but this time it was a massive capital ship followed by fighters, then another capital ship and more fighters. The battle was on again, but while it ensued a steady stream of capital ships and fighters continued to stream in. Glen ordered half of the drones to take on a capital ship and the other half to concentrate on the fighters. Now the neighbors went into action. They stayed away from the capital ships, but began to take on the fighters that got past the drones. Two fighters got through and ran toward the human battle group. Jown was quicker than Glen. He leaped to speed and lanced one of the fighters as he approached him. It was very spectacular. The drones lances didn’t do any visible damage, but Jown, probably from using more energy than he needed, ripped the center of the fighter out the back and folded the outer parts around in front of it. At the same time it exploded violently from it’s warheads all detonating simultaneously. Mother took out the second fighter with a shot from long range. Glen wanted to know if they could hit and do damage at that range.
But the battle against the capital ships was going badly. None of the invaders could touch the drones, but the drones weren’t doing any measurable damage to the cap ships. When the invaders finally stopped entering there were 15 cap ships and most of the fighters were taking refuge amongst them where at least all they ahd to worry about was the drones. Finally Glen ordered all of the drones to concentrate on the fighters. He was at a loss as to what to do about the cap ships. He was deep in thought when one of his crew reported that Jown was gone. It was disturbing news, but there was no time to consider what had happened to him. The cap ships were now moving steadily at the alien blocking fleet.
Suddenly there was just for an instant a very fine line running diagonally across the display. It was there then gone. Everyone blinked but there was no time to ask if anyone else had seen it because just as instantly the stern section of one of the invader cap ship exploded violently. Not like the fighter exploding from its warheads, much, much larger. It vaporized the stern, turned the forward end into individual pieces of scrap. Flaming debris struck two of the nearby cap ships and ripped huge holes in their sides. Quickly Glen ordered the drones to attack those damaged ships. This time they made headway. It was slow work but turret by turret and engine by engine they disabled them.
While the drones were at work no one noticed a lone human fighter appear a long way out long enough to survey the damage, and then it was gone again only to suddenly appear and stop on a dime near the human battle group. Jown called the fighters to a separate channel and had a short conversation with them and transmitted some programming for their ships. Then he went back on the main communications channel.
“With your permission I would like to take two other fighters with me. We will finish the cap ships.”
Glen knew better than to waste time asking how he had done it, “Go quickly.”
Three human fighters disappeared. If you had a very long range scanner that didn’t have a speed of light time delay, you would have seen the fighters all stop in a group a very long distance outside of the system. If your scanner could continue to pick them up at relativistic speeds you would have seen them all simultaneously on Jowns signal leap to a quarter of light speed heading into the center of the invaders formation. They were so far away that the trip took 30 seconds. During those 30 seconds all three ships charged their potential gravity fields. The human eye and reflexes could never have pulled off this move, and neither could electronics if Jown hadn’t carefully calibrated them during those months of preparation. But the attack program had been refined and the calibration was correct. This time to Mother’s perspective there were three fine lines. The three gravity lances fired simultaneously at three widely separated cap ships. Three cap ships had large sections vaporize and 4 others were badly damaged. Meat for the drones. 10 down and 5 to go.
Immediately after the second pass the invaders began decelerating as fast as they could and then accelerating back toward the gate. After the drones finished the damaged cap ships they went back to work on the fighters. But now there weren’t enough cap ships for them all to hide near and the alien fighters began to pick off large numbers of invaders who had strayed too far from their cover. As they approached the gate Jown and his squad made a final run. The three cap ships had bunched hoping to pass quickly and near one another through the gate to safety. But it never happened. Three cap ships were hit directly and the other two were so close in that they had whole sections vaporized simply from the nearness.
Glen ordered some of the drones to take up position at the gate to block any retreat by the fighters who now had no other safety to hope for than the gate. Between the drones and the alien fighters, they didn’t last 15 minutes. Immediately a large group of alien fighters passed through the jump gate.
The alien commander came back on, “Scanning adjacent system for enemy reinforcements.” After a pause he continued, “Our reports were very wrong, you are certainly not weak.” Glen not wanting to give away anything more about the human’s true condition said nothing. After an hour the commander came back on and said, “No reinforcements for at least two systems. Come down and meet.” His ship accelerated slowly toward the planet.
But Glen and the MNES executive staff had anticipated this probability and had discussed it at length. There was a lot of risk of misunderstanding, not to mention strange diseases, potentially dangerous air and poisonous water. It wasn’t something to be rushed into. But to turn it down cold could also be misinterpreted. So they had a contingency ready, “We cannot stay and aren’t equipped to test your air, but we will send back a fighter with an ambassador. The fighter will be able to handle any remaining capital ships that you might find.”
After a pause the commander responded, “I sadly agree. I hope someday to meet face to face and to personally thank you for your crucial help in this dark hour. We will wait here for the joy of the presence of your ambassador.”
Glen answered him, “After our only other encounter with an alien race, we were very fearful of another encounter. But regardless of our fear we could not sit by knowing the agony you were going through. We would have been here sooner, but it took a long time to prepare. We must slowly prepare our people for the knowledge of your presence. With your permission we will move one of your communications stations at your base in our system to our base. We can then keep in contact with you and our ambassador.”
The alien commander readily agreed and added that their base was at our disposal for any use we wished to make of it. Glen ordered the retrieval of the drones to Mother and the reformation of the battle group. Then they began the long trip home. Two weeks later they disembarked for hot showers and fresh food at MNES headquarters. After a day they held a debrief. The MNES staff reported that everything there had continued uneventfully. Glen described the battle to the staff that missed it, and then turned to Jown.
“One thing I don’t understand. I understand now the high speed passes, charging the potential gravity on the way in for a single heavy blow, but what caused the high energy vaporization? Why didn’t your lances just punch big holes in them?”
Jown replied, “Because the program in the last instance would locate the gravity signature of one of the target ship drive units and specifically aim the lance at the drive. It turns out with their design, which fortunately was just like our neighbor’s design, a gravity lance with enough energy will cause a fusion reaction. Even with a one meter diameter drive there is enough nuclear material in their fuel to cause an off the scale detonation. Johann and I discussed this possibility during our preparations.”
Posted by strailon Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 00:00:00 UTC