Manxome Foe votsb-3, page 26part #3 of Voyage of the Space Bubble Series
Up close, the Hexosehr were covered with purple fur and had, apparently, no eyes. Other than that they looked a bit like oversized otters with hands. They only came up to thigh-height on a human, but were long and sleek.
“Their ships are better than ours,” Berg replied. “They’ve got their own hyperdrive that they created, their computers are better than ours and they’ve been fighting the Dreen for a while. Treat them with respect.”
One of the Hexosehr broke off from the greetings, apparently not noticing the astonished expression on the CO’s face, and walked along the line of Marines. He stopped at the end and looked up at Lieutenant Monaghan.
“You are the boss man?” the Hexosehr asked. The communicator rendered the sound very high. Berg was reminded of the time the ship got filled with helium.
“I am the platoon leader of First Platoon, Bravo Company,” Lieutenant Monaghan said. “The Marine commander is among the greeting party you just left. As is the commander of the ship.”
“These are squee or ground fighters?” the Hexosehr asked.
“Ground fighters,” Lieutenant Monaghan replied.
“They are experienced in fighting the Dreen?”
“We have two people with experience fighting the Dreen,” the platoon leader said, looking over at the greeting party helplessly. “We have others experienced in fighting other species. We also still fight among ourselves. Most of these, however, are not veterans.”
“Show me veteran,” the Hexosehr ordered.
“Sergeant Berg, Front and Center!”
Berg stepped out of rank, did a precise right face and marched down to face the Hexosehr.
“Sergeant Eric Bergstresser, reporting as ordered,” he snapped, rendering a hand salute.
“What is thing to head?” the Hexosehr asked.
“It is a salute,” Lieutenant Monaghan explained. “It is rendered to a superior officer.”
“How to tell him to stop?”
“Either I order it or you return it,” the lieutenant said. “Are you a fighter. A soldier?”
“I am boss of soldiers,” the Hexosehr replied, rendering Berg something like a salute. “You are veteran?”
“I am, sir,” Berg replied, dropping his salute sharply.
“What are you called?”
“Sergeant Eric Bergstresser, sir,” Berg repeated.
“No, what are you called?” the Hexosehr insisted. “What’s your handle?”
“Two-Gun, sir,” Berg replied, trying not to roll his eyes.
“What you fight, Two-Gun?”
“I have fought demons on the Cheerick world, sir,” Berg replied. “I have fought crabpus. I am one of five survivors from our previous mission, sir. I am the holder of one of our nation’s highest awards for combat.”
“You fight ships?”
“No, sir,” Berg replied. “I am a United States Space Marine. I fight in space, on land and sea. But I fight close up.”
“You are proud?”
“Yes, sir! I’m a Marine.”
“You are afraid?”
“Yes, sir. Only an idiot isn’t, sir.”
“But you fight anyway?”
“Because you are Marine?”
“You choose? You volunteer?”
“You’ll do. Go back. We talk later.”
“Return to ranks, Sergeant Bergstresser,” Lieutenant Monaghan said, a note of puzzlement in his voice.
“Excuse me, Scientist Rimmild,” Captain Blankemeier said, confused. “What was that in aid of?”
The greetings had paused as the “Combat Master” walked away and braced the Marines. All of the humans were goggling.
“Most Hexosehr are willing to fight once,” Philosopher Baelak replied. “Some are willing to fight twice. This Marine, he fights many times. Combat Master Dugilant was interested in the nature of your fighters. He is satisfying his curiosity. You seem surprised that he did this. It is a breach of protocol?”
“We’re fighters, ma’am, not diplomats,” Spectre replied. They’d gotten the sexes thing straightened out before the visitors arrived. “If he wants to go over and brace one of my Marines, he can brace one of my Marines. But, yes, it was a breach of protocol.”
“I will mention this to him,” the diplomat said. “What is next?”
“Ma’am, I’m going to turn you over to Miss Moon,” the CO said. “She is our linguist but has other talents and knowledge. Commander Weaver is going to interface with Scientist Rimmild and Combat Master Dugilant. Commander Weaver is our astrogator, an engineer and scientist as well as a naval officer.”
“What are your restrictions upon our movement?” Philosopher Baelak asked.
“None,” the CO said. “If we’re going to work together, you need to know what we have to do it. And our systems, with the exception of the drive, are primitive compared to yours. But you may be able to make suggestions or improvements that will aid us in this and other fights. If you can and will. I’ll be honest. We want access to your technology. We want to know what you know about the Dreen. In return we will do whatever we can to help you escape and to find you a world to go to. One far enough away from the Dreen that you’ll be secure.”
“That had better be very far away indeed,” Scientist Rimmild interjected. “We have data on their spread. We are willing to share this as well as other things in return for support.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Spectre said, nodding. “Thank you. I do not know of your sleep needs. We can only base that on our previous passengers. But we have set up waste elimination facilities, we have some food that they found mildly palatable and a compartment adjusted to your air needs. So I’ll let you get to it.”
“You are not human,” Scientist Rimmild said as the threesome entered the engine room.
“You are very observant,” Tchar replied, clacking his beak in humor. “I am Adar. We are allied with the humans. Like the humans, we first encountered the Dreen as invaders through a gate. Then, later, we met the humans. Now we are allied against our common enemy. I am the engineering consultant for the ship’s drive system.”
“You know, we have enough problem with scientific details,” Bill said. “But I just realized, we can’t even show you schematics. I’m not sure how to translate our diagrams into something you can sense.”
“How does your drive work?” Rimmild asked, walking around the sphere. “I am picking up electromagnetism, but that just supports this ball. And a stream of neutrinos.”
“We don’t actually know,” Bill admitted. “The Adar found the central bit, a small black box, in some ruins. I figured out how to make it work as a drive. But it does things we still don’t understand. It drops in and out of superluminal at a very high frequency. The pulses are timed so that light can filter through but that’s about all. Nothing that is harmful. It shifts to reactionless normal space drive with artificial gravity close to our own automatically when we approach a gravity well. When we’re deep in the gravity well, it turns off the automatic gravity and inertial compensation. How much of that is part of the theoretical basis and how much is engineering we just don’t know.”
“Can you fire from within it?” Dugilant asked.
“No,” Bill said. “On the other hand, nothing we’ve run into can get through. We just did a sweep of the main Dreen ship that’s pursuing you. It hit us, several times, with plasma fire. No effect.”
“That would have been nice to have,” Dugilant said. “How fast can you cycle in and out? Is it controllable?”
“About a third of a second to turn it off,” Bill replied. “Another third of a second to get it to come on-line. But if you’re thinking of flying in and launching, then warping out, it takes longer than that for our systems to launch. As much as five seconds for our major weapon. We have lasers that are faster, but they are relatively weak. I’m not sure they could scratch that dreadnought’s armo
“And your main weapons are chemically propelled rockets?” Rimmild asked, still circling the ball.
“They are fired under low acceleration,” Bill said. “Barely two of our gravities. Five seconds after firing their rockets fire. Those have one hundred gravities of acceleration.”
“If you came in close and fired, the Dreen would detonate them before the rockets went off,” the combat master said.
“They did that with our torpedoes already,” Bill said. “At about two light-seconds.”
“A squee,” Rimmild said, still circling the ball. “If we can power it. What is your power system?”
“Stored ardune,” Tchar said. “Quarks. Unique quarks.”
“I’m not getting that,” Rimmild said. “Unique I got. The other two terms… Matter negative to normal?”
“No,” Bill said. “Not antimatter. Quarks are the most basic building blocks of matter. Smaller than atoms or protons. The building blocks for matter.”
“You keep that in your ship?” Rimmild asked. “How much?”
“Over four kilograms,” Tchar said, holding up two of his massive fists. “This much.”
“I hope you don’t land on planets!” Rimmild said.
“Unfortunately, we do,” Bill said, wincing. “We’re aware of the risks. Ardune, quarkium, is also what we use in our missiles as a warhead.”
“All I can say is I’d like you to get this ship as far away from our ships as possible!” Rimmild said. “Insane!”
“It’s necessity,” Bill replied. “We need the power. And you haven’t even heard the good part about the drive system…”
“You have much knowledge of this ship?” Baelak asked as the linguist led her forward.
“When we were on our way out here I spent time working on it,” Miriam said. “I was bored so I worked with the technical crews that maintain it. At this point, yes, I have much knowledge of this ship. Every bolt, every rivet as they say.”
“This seems…” Baelak had stopped and was running her hand down a pipe.
“That’s a waste pipe,” Miriam said. “You can’t see the coding on it but it tells the engineers what it’s carrying and which way it’s going. You were going to say ‘primitive’ I think.”
“How it is joined,” Baelak said, running her hands over a joint. “I am not a technician as you are…”
“I saw the unreality generator wing,” Miriam said. “We join material, this type, by melting metal into the joints. It’s called welding.”
“We join metal to metal,” Baelak said, taking her hand away from the pipe. “I know of welding. It is a technology… we rarely use anymore.”
“And we’re very interested in learning how you join metals,” Miriam said.
“I don’t actually know,” Baelak admitted.
“Well, when we get you settled perhaps your scientists can explain it to ours,” Miriam said. “What else do you want to see?”
“These humans are insane,” Rimmild said, stripping off the hated respirator. “Insane.”
“The linguist is certainly… interesting,” Baelak said. “And very knowledgeable. She even works as a technologist in the ship, which I’ll admit I cannot do.”
“Oh, they are all knowledgeable,” Rimmild said. “Of their paltry technology. Chemical rockets. What good are those going to do?”
“They are willing to go into space with that paltry technology,” Dugilant said. “They know that they are practically unarmed. Yet they are trying to find out how to help us.”
“Because they want our technology,” Rimmild said.
“There is more,” Baelak said. “They have many cultures on their planet, as we once did. The culture that has created this paltry technology is… very giving. It can be found most strongly in the linguist. They see people who need help and try to help them, often to their detriment. I have also been accessing their information net. Primitive, yes, but functional. I hope that we make it to this Earth. It seems a very vital place.”
“They do battle,” Dugilant said approvingly. “Even the culture that this ship comes from, yes? This is a battle ship. Although for under water, which I find surprising and somewhat amusing.”
“Yes,” Baelak said, with a note of distaste. “It was created by a tribe called the Americans. They are more giving, and more battling, than any other culture on their planet. It is a strange dichotomy. We only began to explore it.”
“Rimmild, you spoke of a chaos generator,” Dugilant said. “You said, if they can power it. They are enormous and require more power than I think this ship can generate.”
“Are you sure they are not listening?” Rimmild asked.
“No,” Dugilant said. “But I also don’t care. Nor should you. The Dreen are practically on our backs and clawing. The Caurorgorngoth is our last Chaos Destroyer and it is badly damaged. Who knows if it will survive another battle. If the humans can not help us, we are assuredly doomed. So tell me what you were talking about.”
“There is an experimental model,” Rimmild said. “We have one prototype with us. It was never put into production because it has less range than plasma guns. But it’s much more powerful. And the energy budget is lower. But I’m still not sure it would be effective. They would have to warp in quite close, fire, then warp out. As fast as they are going in warp, differentials, their primitive systems, no armor to speak of…”
“Get me the weapon,” Dugilant replied. “Figure out how to install it. Find a place for a fusion reactor if you must. That is your job. My job is to figure out how to use it.”
“Fleet Master, incoming transmission from the Caurorgorngoth. They are still fifteen treek out so there is a significant lag.”
“Glad news anyway,” Lurca said. “Put it on.”
“Fleet Master Lurca, Ship Master Kond,” Kond said. “If you have encountered the humans, then you have most of our news. The Klingoddar was destroyed, we ran into fighters before our transit and sustained damage to our unreality generator. Another race, the humans, helped us to repair it. The only news is that we began to pick up emissions from a Dreen ship before we translated. It was one of their destroyers. It is likely that it will be right behind us. We are moving towards the fleet rendezvous but request a collier be sent to us so we can stand off and engage the destroyer away from the fleet.”
“We’ll need to dispatch corvettes or the destroyer will be able to go around him to us,” Matulain said.
“As you advise, Strategy Master,” Lurca said. “Kond, we are sending a collier and corvettes to protect your flank. We are in contact with the humans. We are trying to see what we can trade with them. They are eager but primitive. However, we have received all the intelligence they sent us. Be aware, our estimates are that we will be unable to avoid the Dreen this time. We simply have to refuel; if the dreadnought stays on schedule we will still only be halfway done. You may have to hold them off as the fleet escapes, may have to hold them for kleng. We will do whatever we can to improve the human ship so that it will be able to assist you. When you are close enough, we will set up a joint conference. There is much to discuss.”
“We have a weapon you might be able to use,” Rimmild said.
The humans and Hexosehr had gathered in the science section meeting room. It was larger than the wardroom and had better communications equipment.
“It is an experimental small chaos generator,” Rimmild continued. “It only has a range of less than one of your light-seconds. But its effects would be better than even one of your ardune warheads. A chaos ball creates chaotic quantum events in any matter it touches. Since the matter tends to disintegrate, even detonate, when it comes into contact with the chaos ball, the weapon continues in a straight course until the effect dissipates. On smaller ships, such as the Dreen destroyers, a ball generated by a destroyer will often go entirely through them.”
“Ouch,” Spectre said.
“An ardune warhead will do more than that,” Bill pointed out.
“Only in contact,” Dugilant replied. “If there is even a few tens of meters separation, the vessel is likely to fly through unscathed. Dreen armor is immensely tough and the armor on the new ship looks to be as good as one of our own Chaos Destroyers. Those would shrug off your weapon unless it was in contact. And, frankly, getting any physical weapon through the defenses of Dreen ships is unlikely, absent an enormous number of much faster missiles. However, there is no way to shoot down a chaos ball. Light is transmuted, slugs are absorbed and rendered. This is the power of a chaos ball. Once fired it is impossible to escape damage unless you evade it.”
“And there may be a way for you to use it,” Dugilant continued. “But it will require precision piloting, probably computerized, and nerves of steel. All ships are designed to intercept weapons a long way out…”
“Come in really close,” Weaver said. “Really really close.”
“Yes,” Dugilant said. “Use the power of your most excellent drive system. Exit warp, fire the ball, then go back into warp. I would recommend that the systems be interlocked. You will also need to match course and speed with the target before you attempt your intercept. Even if some shots miss, if you repeat over and over…”
“They were hitting us even in warp,” the XO pointed out. “I suppose if we use evasive maneuvering… I’m worried about their fighters. That gives them a whole other vector of fire.”
“Fighter sweeps to start,” the CO said. “We’ll go in and taunt them out. Then use the chaos ball or missiles to take them out one by one. Or two by two or six by six, I don’t care.”
“What about their destroyer?” the XO asked. “That’s capable of taking us out in normal space.”
“You will not be fighting alone,” Dugilant said. “The Caurorgorngoth and our corvettes will be fighting with you as well. If we can lure the destroyer away, it may be that you can test the system on the destroyer. The entry point for this system is on the far side of the sun. They will exit there, a few hours behind the Caurorgorngoth. Then it will take them nearly one of your days to reach this position. We have that long to stop them.”
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