The First Battle of Eden
By Josheua Samuelson
A Chronicles of Man Short Story
The chime pierced the silence of the flag officer's quarters aboard the Alliance battleship Kilimanjaro, and Vice Admiral Harriet Spencer's azul eyes opened begrudgingly before the chime called again. Sighing, the five foot nine woman rolled to her side and glanced up at the communication panel at her bedside, tapping the glowing accept key and designating voice only. After all, it wasn't right for an admiral to talk to her subordinates while half naked.
"Spencer, go ahead." She said and noted the grogginess of her own voice as she checked the time. Zero two hundred. No wonder she felt like she had just fallen off a sunderhorse.
"Admiral, I don't mean to wake you but we have a situation." Spencer quirked an eyebrow at the voice on the other end. It was Captain Kuritz, Kilimanjaro's CO who, like Spencer, should have been in bed not standing watch on the bridge; but Spencer shrugged it off before speaking.
"What is it Captain?"
"Mass sensors picked up forty k-space footprints on the edge of the system. They have started on a least time course to Eden and their acceleration definitely indicates they have Military grade compensators and counter-mass impellers mam." He paused a moment but his inflection had indicated there was more and she waited for him to continue. "From what we can tell, and this is preliminary, but the central force matches the mass-signatures of at least ten Genoan dreadnoughts."
Spencer's expression sobered and she stood from her bed and began making her way to her closet. "I'll be in the CIC in five minutes Captain. Meet me there. Spencer out." She said without giving him time to respond and the channel shut. Glancing through her closet, she grabbed her closest battle-dress uniform and stepped into it, zipping it up and pressing the controls before the fibers in the uniform tightened around her form. Moments later, she vanished from her stateroom, helmet tucked under her arm.
"Report" Spencer said as she stepped through the doors of the CIC. The spacious, two story room was ringed with displays and control stations and at least six-dozen crewman and officers moved from station to station as they monitored, analyzed, and generally inspected the blue holographic controls. At the center, Captain Kuritz stood, monitoring a holographic display of the current system Kilimanjaro and her task force were standing guard over – Eden.
"Mass-sensors have confirmed our initial estimates Admiral. The approaching task force is comprised of ten Genoan dreadnoughts, twelve battleships, three battlecruisers, ten cruisers and a five destroyer screen. We also think they have some frigates with them but we can resolve the them at this distance." Kuritz said after he noted Spencer's arrival.
"Course and speed?" She said as she stepped up to the plotter at the center of the room and next to Kuritz, scanning the view for herself.
"Still on a best course speed to orbit. Estimates put them about three hours out. They haven't responded to our screen's challenges either. I'm pretty sure we can assume they are here to make a ruckus." Kuritz said with a wry smile that wholly didn't fit the situation yet Spencer couldn't help but return it.
"Hm." She said as she rested her chin in her hand and examined the plotter – particularly the spread of her own task force relatively to the approaching enemy.
As far as Spencer could tell, there was no way that the Genoan Admiral could know about her Battleships in orbit. Her task force along with a dozen other similar forces had been slipped into Alliance systems bordering the verge over the course of the last month ever since diplomatic relations with a number of verge space star nations had begun to break down. Furthermore, Spencer's battleships were in parking orbit of Eden's only inhabitable system meaning their counter-mass engines were offline. Even to the most modern mass-sensors, her three-kilometer long, ten million ton warships were obscured by the massive e-class, or earth-class, world behind them.
However, that didn't change the fact that she was outnumbered. While Spencer's Everest-Class Battleship's could hold their own against Genoan Imperial-Class Dreadnoughts, she only had seven battleships. Furthermore, the twelve Minotaur-Class Battleships the Genoan's had brought with them were more than a match for her eight King Henry-Class Battlecruisers, and that didn't begin to mention the additional battlecruisers, cruisers, and destroyers the Genoan's had. Spencer only had a trio of cruisers and six destroyers for her own screen.
"Alright, Captain. Signal our battlecruisers and pull them within the gravity limit of Eden and makes sure they make their approach look like a main force scrambling to guard their charge – I don't want to even hint that we are here yet. Furthermore, dispatch all of our Marines groundside to reinforce General Thaddeus' garrison. Once the enemy has committed to their course and vector, fire up our counter-mass walls and begin maneuvering to meet up with the battlecruisers. As for our screen, inform Commodore Hall that we will launch our frigates to meet her units to form our Lance. Once we are within missile range, we'll signal her the final course for her run."
"Aye mam." Kuritz said with a nod and paused as he considered her order for just a moment. "And the orbital fortresses?"
"Eden only has three medium platforms and they won't be much good at the range I want to engage at. Even if we tucked ourselves close into Eden, those fortresses would be sitting ducks. They just don't have the shielding or firepower to stand up to ships of the line."
And why should they? Spencer thought with a mental sigh. Eden was an agrarian world. No one ever expected anything more than a small raiding force to try anything here and the military infrastructure had reflected it. Spencer's task force just happened to be here because Eden was – at least they had thought it had been – the perfect hiding place for reserve units, but clearly ONI had underestimated just how stretched for food stuffs the Genoan Empire had become. If they were willing to commit what amounted to one-fourth of their fleet to simply take an agrarian world, then they were in dire straights. Then again, Eden might simply had been a staging area for them. A place they could easily take and use as a springboard into Alliance space, and it would have worked too if Spencer hadn't been tucked away here.
"Communication." Spencer said after a long pause, turning on her heals to face the comm. officer's station. "Prepare an FTL drone. Encode for fleet command." The communication officer nodded and tapped the controls on his station before looking up at Spencer. "Address To Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Marcus Kingman. From Commanding Officer, Task Force Eden, Vice Admiral Harriet Spencer. Message Begins, I am initiating Snap Count for Immediate mobilization of Naval Forces. Hostile aggression against Alliance Territories imminent. End Message." The communications officer tapped his controls once more.
"Message recorded Admiral. Drone ready." The young man's cool baritone had an edge of tension in it and Spencer noted the well-hidden nervousness in his green eyes.
"Thank you Lieutenant, deploy the drone." Moments later, a small, turquoise dot appeared on the plotter and it bega pulling a 3000g acceleration to the edge of the system.
"Captain Kuritz, how long till our Marines are clear?" Spencer moved silently over to the Captain's console, glancing over his shoulder before he turned to face her.
"Colonel Harman says his people could be ready to go in five minutes but that schedule forgoes loading their heavy armor. If they try to pull their quick launch racks and re-arm for extended deployment, it will take them about thirty minutes before they can drop." Kurtiz motioned to his console indicating the waiting dropships on the flight line.
"Navigation, how long till the enemy is committed to his vector?" Spencer's eyes shifted to the Navigation station at the other side of the CIC and she almost had to shout to make her question heard over the general noise.
"Enemy will reach PNR in forty-eight minutes and thirty second." The young woman's voice betrayed her nervousness far more than even the Communication officer and Spencer winced. That sort of nervousness was infectious and right now she needed focused, calm minds around her. She stared at the navigator for a moment then gave her a reassuring nod before turning back to Kuritz.
"Tell Colonel Harman he has time, and I would prefer for him to have the equipment to hold the planet till reinforcements arrive if the Genoan's get past us."
Kurtiz gave another one of his token nods and glanced back down, speaking into the ship communication, likely to Colonel Harman, and Spencer tucked her arms behind her and walked back towards the main plotter. Her eyes focused on the red targets again and her eyes narrowed. Come on you Bastards. I'm waiting.
The maneuver, under different circumstances, would have been an elegant display of the skilled navigators aboard Kilimanjaro and the battlecruiser King William as the two ships slipped into formation along with the other battleships and battlecruiser belonging to task force Eden. Now one-hundred and eighteen million tons of Alliance ships of the line moved in a characteristic missile wall formation. With around one-thousand kilometers between each ship, the rest of the task force were nothing but dots when observed through the viewports and the display of firepower was lost. However, on the holographic plotter, the powerful formation was an elegant line of blue gems against a pitch black sea.
Spencer would have killed to know what had gone through the Genoan Admiral's mind when seven mass-signatures belonging to Alliance Battleships had appeared on his own plotter. Sure the enemy still out-matched her, but it was still a hell of a surprise. And this far into his maneuver, the man was committed on his vector and was now heading right towards Spencer's task group which had maneuvered to cross his T. He could still alter his course to bring his own missile batteries to bear but there was no way to get past her and still achieve his objective. Spencer would get her licks in and she still had some surprises up her sleeves, which may be enough to turn the tide of the battle.
The biggest wild-card however were the electronics warfare systems of both fleets. Spencer was well aware that the systems aboard her warships were some of the best in known human space, but the secretive Genoan Empire had been extremely good at hiding the specifications of important information. It had been hell just getting the raw armaments specifications of their missile and kinetic weapons. It was next to impossible to procure information on something as sensitive as the EW systems.
"Their Lance line is breaking off." Kuritz announced from his chair. The entire staff was now strapped into the large seats in the CIC, all of them wearing their pressure suits and helmets – communication facilitated by the built in comms.
"Final strength?" Spencer asked as she turned away from the main plotter.
"Looks to be the full cruiser and destroyer squadron as well as a pair of their battlecruisers." Kuritz said grimly.
"Well, Commodore Hall has her work cut out for her. Inform her to plot the optimum intercept vector and pound their Lance on their way in. I assume their main line is reorienting into a missile wall?" Spencer's own soprano was flat – its forced evenness sounding distant even to her.
"Aye Captain." It was the Navigation officer form earlier who spoke up and Spencer glanced over to the young woman before giving her another nod.
"Time till they reach our missile envelope?"
"Guns, program in a maximum range solution and standby to fire on my order. Captain Kuritz, signal the fleet to fire on Kilimanjaro's signal. Standby to deploy drones, chaffe and the ECW suite." Spencer programmed a timer into her own controls before she began watching the crimson numbers count down to zero.
"Well at least we'll know if their ECW effectiveness is close to ours." Kuritz said over he and Spencer's private channel. "If it is, I'll help you pick the Genoan missiles out of your teeth if you help me pick them out of mine." The two friends exchanged half grins and Spencer shook her head after a moment.
"Sixty Seconds…" The navigation officer said before beginning to count down by tens.
Well at Least they don't' know about our compensators. I bet they've never seen a Battleship corkscrew like a destroyer before. Spencer said with a hungry smile and for a brief moment she felt a feeling of providence settle over her. This is what she had trained for all her life. What all those courses, simulations, training exercises, and long nights had been for, and she found a sort of serenity in her purpose.
"Ten, nine, eight…" There was more tension in the navigators voice as the time drew near.
"Standby!" Spencer said yet again and her eyes focused on the plotter once more as the turquoise markers of her task force drew near to the glowing crimson shapes of the Genoan task force. Three, Two, One!
"Kuritz, execute plan!" Spencer said with a bit more ferocity than she would have liked.
"Helm! Positive Z Axis Role! Guns, flush the tubes. Set cycles to maximum rate of fire. Deploy decoys and chaffee, standby point defense and engage EW and ECW systems!" Kuritz voice matched Spencer's own intensity and the crew reacted with lighting reflexes. Dozens of hands flew over their controls as they brought Kilamanjaro's powerful weapons to bare as the ship began to roll on her Z-axis, still thundering forward at one twentieth the speed of light.
Before the Alliance had improved the z-axis compensators on their warships, ships like the Kilimanjaro had simply been too massive to pull a z-axis role. Such a maneuver would have started tossing crew, hull plating, and armament around inside the ship like the beads in a maraca. Consequently, warships had fought engagements with a single broadside deployed against their enemy. This meant that a warship could only deploy half of its missiles at an enemy at a single time. However, the Everest-Class was one of the first battleships to benefit from the advanced compensator design that BuShips had developed. So now, in what would have been a spectacle from afar, all seven of Spencer's battleships rolled as their tubes spat ninety-six missiles every ten seconds.
On the plotter, Spencer watched as her ships produced twice as many missile salvos per the enemies one. That was the first good sign. It meant that the compensator technology, which was top secret, hadn't been leaked to the Genoans in time for them to implement it in their Imperial-Class. But the enemy's salvo numbered one thousand nine hundred to her one thousand one hundred sixty; and she hoped for more good news as the first wave of red pinpricks approached her azul cluster.
"ECW has acquired enemy weapons. Zeroing in on their tracking frequencies." Kurtiz stared intently at his controls as he spoke. "Jamming in progress."
"Counter-missiles solution locked into the computer! Firing!" Now the spinning warships spat out a different wave. A thousand of micro missiles hissed from their pre-loaded cells on the flanks of Spencer's warships and hissed toward's their aggressors salvo. The ECW of the enemies missile salvo confused some while others missed their targets completely. Still, some found their mark and the sea of red began to thin as it approached Spencer's ships. Moments later, the soft thud of the point defense particle guns could be heard echoing through the hull as the automated CIWS systems kicked in. After all was said and done only one-hundred of the enemies missiles made it through her defenses and slammed into her fleet.
Of those that made it through, the vast majority greeted the lead battleship in the line, the ANS Olympus Mons. The Battleship's counter-mass barriers visibly flared as they bled energy, protesting as near twenty missiles detonated their gravitic charges, and for a moment Spencer sighed in relief. Then it happened. Spencer couldn't be certain what had gone wrong. There were always gaps in the counter-mass barriers, but they were small enough that the chances of hitting one was near astronomical. Then again, fate had always had a strange sense of humor and moments later ten million tons of warship erupted in a flash of energy as she lost containment of her zero-point energy reactor.
"Sweet Jesus…" Kuritz said from his seat and shock settled through the room in the brief interlude between the first and second enemy salvo. For a moment no-one said anything but the computers protested as the ECW locked onto the second salvo and eyes snapped from the plotter back to their own consoles. There would be time to morn for their friends later. Either that, or they would join them.
Like her crew, Spencer's eyes tore from the spot on the plotter where Olympus Mons had been and raced towards the enemy fleet while she scanned the statistics of her own first salvo and vengeful grin crept onto her face. Over two-hundred of her birds had made their way into the enemy force in the first wave and over one hundred more in the second; and clearly fate had wreaked its own havoc on the enemy. Two Genoan battleships and a dreadnought were venting atmosphere and shedding armor while another dreadnought had met a fate similar to Olympus Mons. That was good, but they couldn't afford a one-for-one exchange. Worse, now both side's computers were starting to learn and each missile salvo the enemies exchanged was thinner than the one before. This was going to come down to a gun duel after all.
"Admiral. Message from Commodore Hall! She's routed their Lance squadron. Both battlecruisers were completely destroyed and the remaining destroyers and cruisers are scattering!" The communication officer practically tore out of his shoulder restraints and a cheer went through the CIC.
"What were her losses?" Spencer asked as she watched another trace of missiles come screeching in on the plotter.
"Nothing mam! The Tokyo sustained relatively heavy damage but she's still moving under her own power. Captain Morris said, and pardon the language Admiral but this is a quote, 'I don't need a Damn tow, lets just get back into the fight.' They are maneuvering to meet with the battle line and bolster our counter-missile capacity."
That was good news indeed. Hall had just pulled out one of the most lopsided victories in Naval history and Spencer would have to pour over her report to figure out just how she had managed it, but that was a thought for a different place and time and she gripped her seat as Kilimanjaro shuddered under missile fire.
"Helm, bring our course to…" Spencer glanced at the plotter yet again. "…two eight niner mark four. Close to gun range."