Second Contact: Chronicle on the Seeds of Orion
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by Kenneth E. Ingle
Category: Science Fiction
Description: A generation ago, a small group of humans fled Earth to make a new home. Because of a freak laboratory accident, they possess a gene that slows aging, and the rest of Earth would have turned them into lab rats in order to control the inheritable factor. The stars were already occupied, and the settlers from the spaceship Orion fought the aliens to create their own home in the stars--New Earth. Old Earth, under Chinese leadership, is expanding. They attacked the aliens and continue their expanding ways. For the aging Chinese leadership, one treasure looms most important--the long life gene still held secret by the descendants of the original Orion crew. Relations between the aliens and the humans of New Earth have been strained. Ultimately, however, New Earth forms a fragile alliance with its former alien enemies to combat an invasion by Old Earth. The Chinese/Old Earth fleet, outnumbers the combined forces of alien and New Earth and the leaders suspect that even victory may be temporary. They send a group of colonists to carry forward the science and genes of New Earth should the original colony be destroyed. Named New Hope, it carries the same will to do what humans have always done--survive. Author Kenneth E. Ingle continues the story began in FIRST CONTACT with an exciting space adventure. Engaged in war vast fleets of starships navigate for position while clever admirals and hardworking spies seek the opportunity for leverage. New Earth has a technology edge, but the billions of humans still on Old Earth, and now expanding into the galaxy, seem to create an unstoppable force. Ingle's story spans generations first as New Earth defends itself against the expansionary Chinese, then as New Earth's colony, New Hope attempts to stay alive in a universe filled with pirates, pirate states, and those desperate for the long life gene.
eBook Publisher: BooksForABuck,
eBookwise Release Date: January 2012
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [458 KB]
Reading time: 277-387 min.
1942 of the current era (CE),unknown to the humans, a space explorer visited Earth and left believing the inhabitants lacked sufficient social and political development to participate in the galactic community.
Twenty-five years later a laboratory explosion exposed eight of Earth's most brilliant scientists to an indescribable maelstrom of chemicals. Over the ensuing years, it became apparent they were aging very slowly; their life span had increased over five-fold. Their lives had changed forever. The choices: stay on Earth, become lab rats, and run the risk that whatever affected them would get into the general population, or leave. Joined by one hundred twenty others souls who had received blood transfusions from the eight giving them the long-lived gene, they chose the latter and began an epic journey that would take them into space to make a new life for themselves.
One hundred seventy-five years after their ambitious struggle and voyage began, it ended on 55 Cancri 'D' (named "New Earth" by the humans) with FIRST CONTACT in the Cancer System only to find a symbiotic troika laid claim to the planet. Populated by a race called the Rococo and First, a peaceful race, dominated by the Kalazecis who used Pagmok warriors to do their fighting. While capable of space travel, the technology the Kalazecis possessed was not of their own making and obviously came from someone else. As one New Earth scientist aptly put it, "These guys are not Mensa material."
To their sorrow, the newly arrived humans quickly learned these beings used war to gain what they wanted or needed. In the first conflict between two worlds, New Earth defeated the Kalazecis and their Pagmok warriors. New Earth possessed minerals required for space venturing ships denying the Kalazecis the means to maintain their fleet of ships. Unable to breech New Earth's defenses, the Kalazecis, agreed to treat. During the negotiations, under orders from Kalazecis Emperor Djuc, Pagmok warriors attacked and killed Maria Presk, David Rohm, their son Michael, and Erik Svern, the three people most responsible for Orion's successful venture. Seven Pagmok died and fifteen New Earthers including the three leaders. Five Kalazecis diplomats spent the remainder of their lives in a New Earth prison. A state of war had existed ever since New Earthers denied the Kalazecis access to minerals needed to build and maintain space faring ships. Six months later, following Djuc's assassination his son ascended the throne. Myslac, the Kalazecis home world, entered a period of virtual dormancy.
Out there, somewhere an intellectually superior race had developed the means to space travel and weaponry to support that level of adventure. They gave the Kalazecis their space venturing ship technology. No one on New Earth doubted that the day would come when these beings would make their presence known.
For over one hundred years, that situation played out without the unidentified Kalazecis benefactor showing. Now, that had changed. One hundred fifty million kilometers above New Earth, an alien flotilla waited. The appearance of these beings would result in changes that our New Earth spacers had anticipated and ended with a Diaspora of Old Earth emigrants--not all of them friendly.
Our intrepid spacefarers had learned the hard way that space remained a dangerous place.
* * * *
1: The Gathering
In long urgent strides, still in dress blues having just come aboard, Admiral Brogan Presk-Milar made his way along the passageway as he issued a stream of orders.
"Anything new on the mystery fleet?" the Admiral asked. Ten ships of unknown origin were above New Earth, whether friendly or not remained a question. He stepped into the carrier NES Lexington's CIC and studied the plot. Since the ships arrival almost four hours earlier, all of New Earth's electronic eyes remained locked on the aliens--his on the plot screen. Concern etched his face.
"Just that they're out there, Admiral, and showing no signs of leaving." Somewhat taller than her short stocky commander, the green-eyed auburn haired Captain Jeanne Swain had developed the habit of standing with her weight shifted to one leg minimizing the height difference.
"Recall Second Fleet. All speed," he said. Days earlier, he had ordered Second Fleet on a mission to the void.
"It will take Admiral Svern six T-days to get here." she responded. Swain dressed in khaki's and the traditional overseas cap, had served as flag captain for the last five T-years. If two people had learned to read each other, they had. He had an unfair advantage according to Swain, a sixth sense that seemed to defy logic.
Presk-Milar acknowledged with a nod. If Vice-Admiral Svern and Second Fleet were already in the void, contact would be problematic. Presk-Milar, great-grandson of Maria Presk, exhibited many of his ancestor's traits. He lacked the sweeping intellect she possessed--but only by a little. He had forgone the scientific field in favor of a naval space career and was recognized as a master tactician. The Admiral kept true to his scientific heritage, routinely offering technical suggestions that made their way into ships or equipment. During the idle times, and there were many, he took up exploring and platted the space within twenty parsecs of New Earth.
"I see we've got an effective track on them," he said studying the data stream at the top of the plot board. "Ten ships--one big enough to be a battlewagon--mass about the same as our Midway class. A few look like heavy cruisers on down to pinnaces and support. Don't see any carriers. Maybe they don't use close fighter support. If they're as good as, over the years, we've made them out to be, they could rely on standoff missiles and energy weapons. Never get close enough to take much damage. And it gives them time to target our response." Presk-Milar had a habit of speaking his thoughts aloud and the staff knew the comments were rhetorical. He had expressed his concerns the drones that circled just inside New Earth's shield were seeing and relaying reliable data to receivers dirt side and Home Fleet.
"Has President Olivanta authorized us to engage them," Captain Swain asked.
"No. Says she doesn't want to come off as war-like. You know her pacifist thinking. She may be right this time. These guys haven't shown any hostile signs but just sitting there makes you wonder what they're up to. If they're waiting on an attack fleet, that's one thing. If they're just sizing us up we don't want to start the shooting."
Presk-Milar couldn't recall the number of times he'd sat around with fellow officers discussing what might happen when this day came and how New Earth would handle it. All of that seemed inane now that reality waited above the planet. He surprised even himself with the calmness that engulfed him.
They left CIC and walked the few steps to the bridge. Both took their chairs as the Marine sentry called out, "Admiral, and Captain on the bridge."
From her command chair, Swain could observe every working plot board and the weapons station; the Admiral had somewhat less visibility but his interest took in the entire fleet not just the Lexington. One design change made the bridge a self-contained unit, which meant that major portions of the ship could die but the command structure would remain intact to direct the fight for the surviving fleet. That added considerable mass but the newly installed matter-antimatter engines could easily accommodate the load. Early on, New Earth scientists had discovered that contained gravitational fields fore and aft of the spaceship permitted hyperspace flight speeds well above what the captured Kalazecis ships could achieve. It was a modification of the Casimir effect that had powered Orion from Old Earth. Transports and merchant ships still used a combination of the older Casimir engines and matter-anti-matter giving them more speed and load capacity but still slower than the combat ships. Brogan had devoted considerable time to the Lexington's design and the bridge reflected that effort. Access dominated every concept he put forward. To prove or reject an idea, sailors built mock-ups and checked times to station. Anything that failed to improve, in either time or ease of movement, went in the scrap bin. The result, as he would say, seemed choreographed although any reference to a ballroom brought a stern look that put a quick end to it. Few crewmembers saw his repeated drills as anything but drudgery yet declined to disagree publically. Capping off the effort, engineers provided the best current science could provide in electronics. Lexington's bridge layout and electronics defined state of the art.
"It doesn't make sense though," said Swain. "A flotilla is one hundred fifty million klicks above New Earth, just sitting there. I have to wonder why?" She fully understood how the element of surprise could shape a battle even determine its outcome. A tactic she'd never give away without a damned good reason and she'd never been able to think of one.
"Why?" responded Presk-Milar.
"Yes, sir: why? If they were here to attack us, why stop. Why not come right on in. Why give us a chance to prepare for an assault?" Now standing at the plot board of the NES Lexington, the two officers studied the image that had changed little since the alien fleet made its presence known.
"Think about it, Captain. The two times the Kalazecis and New Earth fought, we kicked their butts. The Kalazecis used these guys technology. That is if they're who we think they are. They know we're here. Furthermore, with our cloaking shield in place around the planet, they have to wonder what else might be waiting for them. Besides, a fleet of ten ships isn't about to start anything. They aren't here to fight."
Since the murder of their leaders, and being mainly scientists and engineers, much of New Earth's attention had been devoted to research and development of defensive weaponry. With applied foresight, that same armament in the right hands could become an effective offensive force--something that irked President Olivanta as it ran counter to her pacifist attitude. Presk-Milar had to admit he harbored some of those same views but he knew what his job was and would do it--with or without her approval.
"In any case, let's hope the gadgets the experimental physics boys and engineers cooked up can handle a deep space attack if that's what these guys have in mind," Captain Swain responded. She added, "I understand the entire academy has volunteered for active duty."
Presk-Milar gave out a short grunt and nodded. Presk-Milar's father started the school and named it Midway Military Academy after the ship lost in the void. Acceptance only started a student on his or her professional naval space journey, gaining them the nickname Midwayers. With New Earth's limited population, an applicant faced arguably the greatest non-combat test they would ever endure. Selection meant a candidate had submitted to a series of rigorous physical and mental trials. Physically, they were the best and mentally, some of the brightest. Name recognition or pedigree did not guaranteed admittance.
Retaking his chair, the Admiral looked at nothing in particular, his mind searching every possibility the enemy might throw at them; it they were the enemy. "Jeanne, we may have over extended ourselves. Bolivar isn't ready, can't space for at least a month. I wouldn't trust it to the rigors." Exploring the void, Second Fleet, led by the George Washington remained too far away and of no help. "Only the Gandhi and Home Fleet are space worthy," the Admiral added.
"Do they see us?"
"Don't see that it makes much difference. They've been here before so they know the planet's location. Not seeing it may give them pause. If it were me, I'd think twice about attacking a planet that I couldn't see, particularly if I knew it was there." As far as Presk-Milar was concerned, it stood to reason that these beings had been to Usgac, most likely as observers, any number of times when the Kalazecis had control of the planet.
With the arrival of the alien vessels, Admiral Presk-Milar had ordered the Ready Action Command from Home Fleet, twenty ships, to defensive positions two million kilometers out from New Earth just inside the shield. The remainder of Home Fleet would stay in close orbit. He tolerated President Olivanta's tirade for having done so without her authorization. The Constitution as amended by the Articles of War specifically gave him that responsibility.
"Second Fleet should be arriving at the void about now, said Presk-Milar. Sixty light T-days distant, the void's electrical disturbances made detection almost impossible. Although, if the uninvited guests had detected them, while doubtful, it could be one reason the unknown callers hadn't made a further move toward New Earth. Presk-Milar dismissed the thought. Second Fleet posed no immediate threat to their.uninvited guests.
New Earth's total complement of ships now numbered over two hundred of all sizes and armament that included two carriers provided the tactical clout to meet their strategic objectives: namely, defense. The inhabitants learned early on that to be unprepared invited unwanted guests and set out a plan to build a formidable fleet. Knowing what they faced in the Kalazecis and Pagmok, few raised objections. Either NES Lexington or the George Washington II served as flagships as had their namesakes. Only the Simon Bolivar remained from the original ships captured from the Kalazecis. New Earth's small population, just over forty-two thousand souls, mandated the ship's design minimize the crew size required to operate the vessels. Normal compliment of a Kalazecis ship numbered over four hundred. New Earth's designers had reduced that to less than fifty and at the same time doubled the ship's firepower. Following the strategic philosophy laid out by David Rohm over two hundred T-years earlier, New Earth's military design went for agility, long ranging weaponry and a quick strike force, as opposed to mass and heavy weapons. Inertial mass dampeners had given the fighters and corvettes maneuverability that few spaceship weapons could track, adding a sizable measure of survivability.
New Earth stood no chance in a battle of attrition. Despite a substantial birthrate, its population didn't allow for the kind of losses that would result from a major assault. Planners had estimated New Earth capable of supporting four billion people. Even with the death rate one fifth old Earth's--that would change in another fifty or so years when people reached their normal life expectancy of four hundred years--it would be that long before anyone got concerned about an accelerated birthrate. Stabilization wouldn't happen for almost twelve hundred T-years.
"And if the shields don't do the job?" Jeanne, her face scrunched asked.
"Well, I don't know if that really changes anything. Hell, we have no idea what we're up against whether they're the Kalazecis benefactor's or not. At least until we make contact. Seems to me it makes little difference." Presk-Milar was a pragmatist if nothing else. He left little to chance. "Nail it down," was a common utterance of his. "Do what you know how to do and do it well, the best you can."
"Ever wonder why they waited so long before showing up? As you said, they knew we were here." Every generation of New Earthers had anticipated this day. Many had become complacent even denying it would ever occur. That had all changed in an instant.
"Sure, just like everyone of the citizenry," Presk-Milar said. The admiral had worked constantly prodding the military to remain diligent.
He watched Captain Swain and for a few moments and wondered as to why she'd never married. He'd not, so why should he question her desires? Maybe her career had gotten in the way; his sure had. But she didn't have to worry. Only fifty-five T-years and being long lived, she still had at least one hundred years before her biologic clock started ticking. He didn't answer his number two simply because he didn't have a considered answer. "Captain," he took a deep breath, "Have the fleet stand down from general quarters. Keep them on twenty-four hour alert."
"Captain, President Olivanta is on the comm for the Admiral," said the OD.
Admiral Presk-Milar hadn't talked with President Olivanta to get her thoughts since his original alert and didn't look forward to another conversation. She had a penchant for detail and the Fleet Admiral thought it led to meddling. Adding to his concern--her pacifist attitude was something his great-grand mother discarded quickly as not a good thing, more than that, suicidal.
The bridge crew could hear only one side of the conversation. "I understand Madam President, and I have the same questions. If I planned to attack, it would have happened before my enemy could prepare. They had to know we would use the time to marshal our defenses." Presk-Milar toed the deck plate as he listened. "I understand your position, Madam President but that doesn't mean we should be complacent." The remainder of the conversation just seemed to reinforce established attitudes. Presk-Milar would prepare for the worst.
Reclaiming his chair, the Admiral said, "She's concerned that we are projecting a war-like stance and sending the wrong message."
"Dangerous thinking, sir. What if they're like the Pagmok?" Jeanne said.
"We won't let our guard down nor will I reject the possibility they may be peaceful. We'll keep our options open."
Admiral Presk-Milar knew his number two well enough to understand she would be the devil's advocate as her job required but the captain knew when to closet the adversarial attitude. She would keep everyone on their toes.
Lexington measured twice as big as its namesake. He punched the comm button, "Get General Jabari on the horn for me."
Less than a minute later, he'd arranged a meeting with New Earth's Marine Commandant.
James (Jimmy-John) Jabari remained one of the few from Orion's original crew who still had an active role in New Earth's government. Added to that, the Marine was the only person serving who had experienced personal combat. His war record prior to fighting the Kalazecis and Pagmok was remarkable enough. Added to that, the fight he led capturing all four attacking Kalazecis ships had become New Earth lore. Responsible for dirtside defense and space boardings, the man had few detractors. Some members of parliament thought he should retire, that a born New Earther should take command--a sentiment never openly broached with the Marine.
A few hours later, the launch arrived, clearing the massive hangar doors and settling on the second air lock landing bay retaining rails, not without some jostling. Six khaki clad Marines in visor caps snapped to attention and saluted as the bos'n piped his whistle ship wide. As the tattoo echoed off the landing bay's bulkheads, General Jabari, dressed in Marine blue and gold, black shined shoes you could see your face in, stepped onto the deck, and saluted the flag then Captain Swain.
"Permission to come aboard," he said in a deep resonating voice. Coupled with his size and bearing, it made the man seem even more imposing, maybe intimidating, not that he needed the added image. General Jabari was a living legend on New Earth. Few, other than President Olivanta, dared challenge the man.
"Permission granted General and welcome aboard." Jeanne returned the salute and extended her hand. Jabari had been a favorite of her great-grand father's and remained popular.
Standing almost two hundred centimeters, the man towered over the assembled group. Three hundred T-years had not diminished his imposing presence.
"Admiral Presk-Milar is waiting in the ward room, General. We can take the elevator or walk. What's your preference?"
"Captain, the Admiral keeps the ship running around the galaxy depriving me of a visit. I haven't been aboard the Lexington in over five years. Since you've given me the choice, let's walk." Preceded by two Marine lance corporals and followed by one, all from the ships company, fifteen minutes later they stepped through the wardroom hatch. Jabari had made the trip aboard the launch alone since most of his normal entourage, given the choice preferred not to ride with him as the General did his own piloting. They claimed 'reckless' failed to describe his skills something the man never openly challenged or denied. In fact, he seemed to savor their comparison. Admiral Presk-Milar often said he'd make one hell of a fighter pilot. Those who had flown in mock combat against the General agreed, and that delighted Jabari.
Arriving at the Admiral's cabin, Captain Swain rapped on the hatch.
"Enter. Welcome aboard, Jimmy-John." Admiral "Bogie" Presk-Milar extended his hand. "Have a seat, both of you. Coffee?" Anything but austere, yet short of plush, the Admiral's rooms reflected his tastes. Shelves lining the bulkheads were loaded with artifacts he'd gathered on exploring expeditions. Four good-sized rooms that included a bedroom, kitchenette, bath, and what he called the common area made up the suite. Form fitting chairs, fronted a desk made of something resembling wood, gathered from different planets, and polished to a high sheen.
Each doctored the brew to their liking, took a chair, and joined him. Those who knew Milar expected the small talk but they also understood it had its limits--only meant to get people to give honest opinions. Any officer who misread the Admiral's intention ran the risk of feeling his wrath for brown-nosing.
* * * *
2: Talking To Them
"Jimmy, what do you make of our situation?" asked Bogie. Admiral Presk-Milar, even though Supreme Military Commander of New Earth, preferred first or nicknames when in private with those under his command. As such, until the President imposed Martial Law, the Marine reported to Milar. Jabari also carried the title of Military Academy Commandant and taught two classes, hand-to-hand combat and survival.
"Bogie, I'm at a loss as to why we were not immediately attacked. The only thing I can come up with is they really don't want a fight," Jabari said. "--that is if they're who we think they are. Even with the planet cloaked, they know where we are and a high intensity missile explosion would light up our shield."
"Jeanne seems to agree with you," Bogie said and added, "As do I. Think we can take them?" It was not a rhetorical question, the Admiral wanted honest answers. During his fifty years as head of the military, he'd rigorously tested every aspect to ensure their preparedness. While the enemy's capacity to wage war remained unknown, he stayed confident of New Earth's ability to take the fight to them.
Jabari thought for a minute. "I knew David Rohm. A most gifted engineer; light years ahead of anyone else. I doubt we have anyone who could compare with him. The one exception is his grandson. Hell, one hundred years after the Pagmok killed him, we're still working off the elder Rohm's original concepts. And that includes what the scientists and engineers are working on now--although our theorists have come up with some sophisticated ideas on their own. If these guys were planning to stand off and try to take us with missiles or energy weapons, I'd say we could handle them. We'll take some losses though." David Rohm II, grandson of Michael Rohm, son of David Rohm, now headed New Earth's highly regarded research effort.
Nobody saw fit to argue with the General's assessment. Most New Earthers never knew the grandfather but if they had to make a judgment, would put the grandson up against anyone.
"President Olivanta prepared a comm in all four languages," Bogie said. "If these ships are the ones we've been waiting for all these years, they'll be able to understand us. If they're the Kalazecis pals, we should hear something. If not, well, who knows what might happen."
"What's it say?" Jimmy-John asked. "I hope it isn't her usual touchy feely crap." Jabari's dislike of the President's pacifist thinking required no special insight and often sparked not so private exchanges between the two. He never crossed the invisible line of insubordination and firing him required parliament's approval, improbable as that was.
"The usual diplomatic jargon," Presk-Milar said. "Mostly that we don't want a war with anyone. Not bad really. At least the way it's worded, suggests we can and will resist any aggression."
"Makes sense to me. Have you talked with her?" A deep rumbling chuckle followed Jabari's question.
"She's something else," Bogie said. "After a conversation with her, you've no doubt about where she stands on a subject."
"Or you for that matter," added the General.
"Like her style of not, if her pacifist ways don't get in the way, she'll do alright. And we needed the religious nuts reigned in and she did do that." Admiral Presk-Milar had supported Olivanta for the presidency and the two shared some of the same views. Like his great-grand mother, he believed war was the last resort although in later years she had led her group through three wars, never hesitating to meet a threat head-on and never wavering. He likened her to a pacifist who carried a blaster pistol in her belt.
All three knew how Marie Presk had faced down the Kalazecis having a lot less with which to fight. Few put President Olivanta in that category, but no one considered her a pushover either. Quiet settled over the three.
Jeanne Swain stayed out of the banter between the two. She had grown up in a male dominated household and found it easy to sit and listen. Actually, that upbringing went a long way preparing her for a military career. By the time she received her officer's commission, few dared take her on in a hand-to-hand fight. Privately she would admit useful tidbits of information, pearls of military wisdom she called them, came from one or the other--particularly Jabari. No other person in the service, Marine or Navy, could match the man's experience. In her opinion, he had those rare qualities attributed to good if not great leaders. When he entered a room, just his bearing, how he carried and conducted himself could silence everyone. She mused for a moment realizing she'd never seen the man in civvies. Yet nothing seemed pompous or militant about the Marine.
"Bogie, you've said nothing about the president pushing to mothball some of the fleet. I damn sure think it's a mistake--crazy."
"Don't think it will happen," pensively Brogan replied. "Parliament won't go along with it. At least the way I count she doesn't have the votes. And if I'm wrong, by my calculations, it would take at least fifteen years to pull it off."
"And she'll be out of office," countered Jimmy-John. That brought a nod and knowing grin.
With a reduced fleet, New Earth would have little chance to defend itself. The current ship count barely covered defensive objectives. Combat losses, if they occurred early in a fight would greatly diminish their ability to stop an assault. The weaponry they faced would determine how they handled their response. If the orbiting ships became hostile, launched an attack, New Earth's homing missiles, and energy cannons would be the first line of defense. Beyond any doubt, they planned to win never giving a thought to anything less.
Following Maria Presk's decision to provide New Earth with adequate protection from the Kalazecis or any other beings that might show, building of a fleet had gone virtually unabated. With her murder by the Pagmok, that intensity gained momentum although it wasn't without opposition. A number of citizens truly believed that the military had received sufficient resources and other matters needed attention. Admiral Presk-Milar even harbored some of those sentiments. Not building new ships was one thing, but reducing the fleet ship numbers was another matter altogether and would never happen as far as he was concerned.
"Hell, Bogie, send the damned message. We might as well find out what we're dealing with," Jabari said and added, "we need to know if these guys are the devil incarnate or something less than that."
Bogie leaned on the conference table plot board and pressed an icon. "Done, General."
"Jesus Christ, Bogie. You could have at least waited until I got back with my troops," Jimmy-John said as he jumped to his feet and headed for the hatch.
"Call the hangar deck and tell them to prepare my launch for immediate return dirtside," the Marine said to an orderly as he stomped into the passageway. The general's order brought a chuckle from Bogie.
Common knowledge had it Admiral "Bogie" Milar's ornery side would show and it had. But the antics were always with purpose. In this case, to break the tension building across the entire planet, and when General Jabari's told the story it would do just that. What the General didn't know: the signal was merely the stand-by to send alert.
"The drone's transmitter isn't FTL so the message will take eight T-minutes to get there after shield penetration, Admiral," the comm operator said.
Admiral Milar pressed the icon, "Once I give the command to launch let me know before it breaks the shield."
"Aye, sir. We'll launch on your order and advice."
Penetration of the shield created a momentary electronic disturbance. Launching from the far side eliminated detection by the unknown fleet. Once the drone established line of sight, transmission would begin. Whoever waited out there would be able to receive and should understand the message.
Commandant of the Marines and Home Force General John (Jimmy-John) Jabari served at the president's pleasure and with the advice and consent of Parliament, but even she lacked the clout among the people to replace him; to them, he was their link to who they were. As the launch neared the landing platform, he hit the comm icon, "General," said the operator, "we just got word that President Olivanta declared martial law."
With that declaration, due to a quirk in how the framers wrote the constitution, General John (Jimmy-John) Jabari's position put him second in command with only the President outranking him. It wasn't uncommon for Olivanta not to give the man information on matters that directly affected him or his command. She disliked anything military and used every opportunity to make it known. Jabari immediately commed Admiral Presk-Milar and said, "The lady's hit the ML panic button; I'm boss now, Bogie."
With no rancor, acknowledgment came back immediately. "Aye, sir. The fleet awaits your orders." Presk-Milar knew the rules and as it concerned him and his command, ego had no place. He would follow orders and he had no problem with them coming from Jimmy-John. Aides on the ground put out the word on the change of command.
Jabari set the launch on the tarmac, entered his aircar, he drove himself, to the consternation of his staff as the most who rode with him accused the General of recklessness--and headed for planet's military headquarters, commonly but less than affectionately known as The Box. The oblong building covered six hectares on a peninsula. Established on the most defensible piece of real estate by the original settlers, ironically its isolated geography, now made it a most imposing target.
Jabari steered the aircar into his parking slot, double-timed to the elevator where his less than happy aide-de-camp and two enlisted men waited. Military custom required Jabari's aide to accompany the General when leaving headquarters but all too often the officer found his boss had neglected to inform him.
Ten minutes later, Jabari walked briskly into his office in long heavy strides, his steps announcing his coming to all. Born in an old Earth bayou, the man seemed fearless, a by-product made necessary living in a swamp. Anything less than that and only a stone marker, or a wooden one if you were poor, noted your passage. To his chagrin, someone came up with vids of him in combat against the Pagmok and surreptitiously circulated those showing exploits that bordered on daring. That thinking, even more evident when civilians were at risk, earned him high marks with the people.
"General, the President has moved command to the bunker and requested you join her," said his aide, Colonel Mark Jackson.
"Tell the lady not now." He knew that wasn't going to happen. She would remember Jackson as the one who had delivered the no and remind him every time they met. She did demonstrate a visceral mean streak for those who opposed her and mostly that meant the military. Jabari sat at his smallish desk, seemingly made smaller with his huge size, and punched the icon.
"Madam President, I will join you shortly. I have a great deal that needs my attention here." The conversation lasted a few seconds and he cut the connection. Jabari knew his presence vital to embolden the population. His concern didn't include his Marines. They would follow orders no matter what.
"Colonel, anything new?" Jabari asked walking into the situation room newly set up two floors below his working office.
"No sir. The drone is prepped and ready."
Jabari commed the President and Admiral Milar to keep them both fully informed and issued the order to launch. The Admiral advised him the fleet would go to general quarters on his order.
"Drone launched, shield penetration in ten minutes," control said. They would wait.
Militarily, he had done what he could to protect the population. Telling the people to stay indoors seemed useless and in his judgment counterproductive. He did agree with the president that making contact with whoever waited out there had priority. "The response? Well," Jabari mused out loud, "that should tell us what kind of day we're going to have."
"Probe's transmitting, General," said the comm operator.
"General quarters," he ordered. "Advise the President, my orders," he somberly said.
He understood President Olivanta would take issue with the GQ status but so be it. The planet's military posture was his responsibility and he would exercise that obligation as he saw fit.
Quiet settled over the entire room. Almost to a person, their breaths measured, none wanted to be the one who made a noise.
All but Jabari bolted as the comm crackled, his reputation about having nerves of steel remained intact, "General, I think it would be a good idea to broadcast this to the entire planet," said President Olivanta. "Let them know what we know."
Jabari acknowledged and ordered the information released to the media. Along with their leaders, New Earth citizens would wait.