Manxome foe votsb 3, p.37

Manxome Foe votsb-3, page 37

 part  #3 of  Voyage of the Space Bubble Series


Manxome Foe votsb-3

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  “Okay,” Miller said as the thing in front of him started to freeze-dry. “We don’t have to worry about Dreen, but we’ve still got this mother on our back. So. A one and a two…”


  “I don’t see repairing this ship,” Lurca said, looking at the Blade. “It is so damaged as to be useful for nothing but scrap metal.”

  “Hey, the engine still works,” Spectre argued. “If we could figure out how to survive in suits for thirty days, we could fly it home.”

  “Where it would be scrapped,” the XO pointed out.

  “Well…” Spectre said. “But it’s a good ship!”

  “It is a most excellent ship,” Lurca said. “But it would be better to make you a new one.”

  “You’ve got supply problems,” Spectre said. “I know you’ve got good fabricators, but…”

  “The food you supplied to the visitors,” Lurca said, “could you get more to us within a year?”

  “A year?” the CO said. “We could probably get more to you in a couple of weeks. How much?”

  “As many tons as possible,” Lurca said. “But we would need it in no more than a year. But if I have the food supplies, all the rest is easily enough gathered. If you can promise us resupply, I will take you at your word and rouse our full engineering force. Using our repair fabricators, we can build a ship of this size, much more robust and with more of the small chaos generators, in no more than one of your months. But I take you at your promise that you will return with food. Otherwise my crews will starve.”

  “Done,” Spectre promised. “Food for a ship? Oh, yeah. I’ll take that trade any day.”

  “We will get started on a new ship immediately,” Lurca said. “We’ll need to get your technical people involved in design. I understand they are getting on well with my engineers…”

  “That is grapping cool,” Gants said, pulling the machined piece out of the Hexosehr device.

  He’d taken a metal blank and put it through the wringer. The Hexosehr device cut metal in ways that should have been impossible, actually cutting inside of the outer face if so ordered. He’d started with a square blank of metal and ended up with something that looked like a seriously intercut medallion, with bits of metal lingering in the cut-out sections.

  “Nice,” Red said, slapping his right thigh. “Nearly as nice as this leg. And they built it in a few minutes from design up.”

  “I wonder if there’s some way to buy in on this before anybody knows,” Gants said, sucking his teeth. “This is going to change… everything.”

  “Yeah, except for one little item,” Red said. “The Dreen are coming.”

  “Hell, we took out one of their battleships,” Gants said, shrugging.

  “And as far as we can tell, lost all the Marines that did it.”

  “Found you,” the first sergeant said, walking onto the bridge.

  “Figured you would sooner or later,” Berg said. He was leaning back against the viewscreen, looking at the shriveled body of the Mreee. He’d been there for several hours, wondering when his air would run out. “I mean, how hard was it going to be?”

  “Until we found those blinking lights, pretty damned hard,” Miller opined. “Every hatch on this ship is open.”

  “I figured I should give plenty of time for any of the fungus that got in odd places to die,” Berg said, lurching to his feet and returning to the damage control console. When he hit the buttons again, he could feel hatches throughout the ship closing. As the hatch on the bridge closed, air began to flood the compartment.

  “Hmmm…” Miller said. “O2 levels are good, pressure’s good. I wonder what it smells like?”

  “I figure we’ll find out in about fifteen minutes,” Berg replied. “Unless you brought any spare O2. I’m getting pretty low.”

  » » »

  “It certainly appears dead,” the tactical specialist said.

  “We shall be cautious,” the corvette master ordered. “If it becomes live, we will quickly die.”

  “Corvette Master,” the commo tech said. “We are receiving broadcast in human method and speech from the ship.”

  “Put it on.”

  “…this net, this is Bravo Company Marines. We have captured the Dreen dreadnought. All Dreen onboard are dead, as is the sentient. We’re nearly out of air. Request assistance. Any station this net, this is Bravo Company Marines. We have captured the Dreen dreadnought. All Dreen…”

  “Contact the humans,” the corvette master said. “Tell them we have found their lost fighters.”

  “Sir, you might want to take a look at this.”

  The duty officer for the Space Command Central Watch Post walked over to the long-range sensor controls and looked over the staff sergeant’s shoulder.

  “Is that the Blade?” the colonel asked. “About damned time. They’re nearly thirty days beyond where anyone thought they could survive.”

  “I’m not sure, sir,” the sergeant said. “Some of its emissions are the same as the Blade. Others aren’t. More neutrino output, more meson. More output, period.”

  “Sir,” the visuals tech said. “That is negative on the Blade, sir.”

  “What?” the colonel asked, striding over. “Sound alarm. Send a Flash message that we have an unknown—”

  “Incoming message, sir,” Communications interjected. “It has the Blade’s coding on it.” The printer started to clatter and the tech ripped it off, handing it to a signal runner.

  “Belay that alarm,” the colonel said. “But wake up Admiral Granger.”

  He took the message form and frowned.

  “Yeah, definitely wake up Admiral Granger.”

  “No, seriously, sir, it’s us,” Spectre said patiently.

  “That is not the ship you left in, Captain,” the admiral said doggedly. “And if you get any closer to the planet you’re going to get engaged.”

  “Yes, sir, I understand that protocol,” Spectre replied as soon as he got the lagging reply. Per doctrine, the Blade II was standing off at lunar orbit to await clearance. “I’m sending my full mission report. Read it over and make your decision. But, be aware, you’re going to have a hard time shooting the Blade Two out of the sky. Among other things, the antimissile systems on this baby are awesome. The bad news is we’re going to need a lot more ships. A lot more ships.”

  “Welcome to the Oval Office, gentlemen and ma’am,” the President said, shaking hands. “Sit, please. Glenda, coffee, please. Commander Weaver, my predecessor spoke highly of you. How do you like your new job?”

  “I like it very well, Mr. President,” Bill said, taking the proffered cup of coffee.

  “I feel I ought to offer you all something stronger, but since you’re officially on duty… But Miss Moon? You, as a civilian…”

  “I’m allergic, Mr. President,” the linguist said.

  “Then that settles that,” the President said. “Coffee all around. Captain Blankemeier, I was given an executive summary of your report. Then I asked for a more detailed summary. Then I made the mistake of taking your full report and logs with me for bedtime reading, for which I paid the next day.”

  “Sorry about that, Mr. President,” Spectre replied.

  “You have a gift for turn of phrase, Captain. You would make a good speech writer. But you’ve certainly dropped an enormous… something probably obscene in my lap.”

  “Sorry about that, also, Mr. President,” the CO said. “But we were sent out to find out what happened to the colony and then it got a little complicated.”

  “Agreed,” the President said, looking over at the secretary of defense and secretary of state. “Are we sure about the Dreen spread?”

  “Yes, sir,” the secretary of defense said. “I had analysts go over both the raw data that the Hexosehr had and the astronomical data recovered from the… Karchava, was it Staff Sergeant Bergstresser?”

  “Yes, Mr. Secretary,” Berg snapped. He was sitting rigidly at attention, coffee cup and saucer squared on h
is lap.

  “The Karchava battleship,” the secretary continued. “The analysis section agrees that the Dreen are spreading in this direction, as well as others. They put the maximum period before they reach Earth as twenty years. However, if they become aware of our location beforehand, and there are more outposts between us and them, that could be accelerated. I’d like to, again, commend Miss Moon on her linguistic ability. Starting from the point that the Marines reached she has cracked most of the Karchava script. With that, the analysis became solid. The Dreen are on their way. Worse, they overran the species that produced the most powerful ship we have encountered to date. No species has so much as slowed them. And they’re headed for our region of space.”

  The President bowed his head for a moment then looked back up.

  “Then we have to prepare for war,” he said, looking over at the secretary of state again. “I’m now going to do something rather rare in this office. I’m going to ask you,” he continued, looking at the assembled group from the Blade, “what your suggestions are in this regard. Among other things, you’ve had a month longer to assimilate the information.”

  Spectre looked at the President in surprise for a moment and then cleared his throat.

  “You’re serious, Mr. President?”

  “Don’t tell me you haven’t discussed it,” the President said. “I’ve thought about it, discussed it with my senior advisers. But I’d like your input.”

  “Uh…” Spectre said.

  “A coalition of the willing, Mr. President,” Berg said, still sitting rigidly upright and looking past the President. “Led by the United States and including, at a minimum, Great Britain, China, India and Japan. It is preferred that Germany, some of the other Old Europe countries, the Eastern European block and the Seven Tigers are included as well as certain countries in South America. It should specifically exclude France.”

  “Exclude the French?” the secretary of state asked.

  “Yes, sir,” First Sergeant Powell replied. “Though diplomatically difficult, that’s actually rather important.”

  “Explain,” the President said, leaning back and putting his hand over his mouth.

  “In the two hundred plus years of our country, we have been involved in wars with the French several times,” Weaver said reluctantly. “All of them as allies and all but one to our net detriment. Basically, Mr. President, every time the French get involved in anything, they tend to do more damage to their allies than to their enemies. Examples redound but Vietnam, the War on Terror and World Wars One and Two all come to mind.”

  “In fact, Mr. President, there was significant discussion of what to do on the way back,” Spectre finally admitted. “And the last time we can recall the U.S. benefiting from having the French involved with us was in the Revolution.”

  “Which, I’d like to add, was when they were under the Bourbons,” First Sergeant Powell pointed out. “So, basically, if they’re willing to bring back the aristos, we’ll think about it. Otherwise, our recommendation is that they be excluded.”

  “Except for the Legion,” Miller interjected.

  “Yeah, we’ll take the Legion,” Spectre agreed.

  “And we’ll take some volunteers if there are any,” Berg said, lightening up. “As soldiers, they’re fine. It’s their politicians and generals that suck. Oh, boy, do they suck.” He suddenly whitened as he realized what he’d just said to the President of the United States.

  But the President, far from offended, burst out into laughter and looked over at the secretary of state, who was nearly purple.

  “Thank you, gentlemen,” the President said, grinning, “for making my point for me. And, I’ll add, with some additions I hadn’t considered.”

  “What about the Louisiana Purchase?” the SecState asked, plaintively.

  “That was bowing to reality, Mr. Secretary,” Miriam said. “As well as sucking our treasury dry.”

  “Either we were going to take over that territory or the British were,” First Sergeant Powell answered. “By selling it to us, Napoleon got money to support his wars and kept the British from taking it.”

  “And it was a causative factor of the War of 1812,” Miller said.

  “I disagree, Todd, I think that war was guaranteed no matter what happened,” Powell argued. “England was already angry over us using neutrality to covertly supply Napoleon and we were, of course, wroth over the pressing of—”

  “I’ve got the point,” the President said. “Mr. Secretary, that has to be understood in the negotiations. The U.S. will retire from any planetary mutual defense treaty if the French are part of the pact. We’ll go it alone before we’ll take any cheese-eaters. And we’re not starting from the point of departure of the UN. Coalition of the willing; we’re the top-dog. Why? Because we’re the only superpower on the planet and we’re going to take the brunt no matter how many allies we have. Dress that up in pretty diplomatic language when you have the meetings.”

  “Yes, Mr. President,” the secretary of state said with a sigh.

  “And don’t let your department try to weasel around it,” the President said. “I’m serious.”

  “I won’t, Mr. President.”

  “The Hexosehr, Captain,” the President said.

  “They’re headed for Runner’s World, Mr. President,” the captain replied.

  “And it will take them a minimum of two years to reach it with their warp technology,” the President said. “Two years we don’t have. How do we speed that up?”

  “They’ll reach Michelin’s World in about six months, Mr. President,” Weaver replied. “There’s a gate there that opens up in Alabama. We can easily move it, though, to anywhere we want to establish a major base. Open a gate that leads to Runner’s World. Perhaps another to the Cheerick. We can drop both off quickly enough. Bring what we can fit through a gate from their ships, their people in deep sleep especially, and move them to Runner’s World. Most of them. Many will end up on Earth or Adar working on defense systems and bringing in their technology. They were able to build the Blade Two, while on the run and in deep space, in less than thirty days. Everything from soup to nuts. We’re going to need them leading the drive on developing the new space navy we’re going to require to defend Earth.”

  “If I may, Mr. President,” Miriam interjected. “One of the problems is going to be the economic destabilization caused by their technology. Their technology is leaps ahead of the Adar which is, in turn, well ahead of our own. Their fabricators, alone, are going to impact manufacturing across the globe. The way they work with metals is going to stand the entire machine-shop industry on its head. Every precision manufacturer in the world could be put out of business overnight. Which means that their employees, who are some of the highest paid and most highly skilled workers in any industry, are going to be out of jobs. Preparing for that onslaught is going to be nearly as difficult as preparing for the war.”

  “On the other hand, Mr. President,” First Sergeant Powell said, “when you have two problems…”

  “Sometimes they cancel out,” the President said, nodding. “Such workers would be highly useful, with some retraining, in a space navy. The Draft is on the way, big time.”

  “We’re going to need schools,” Weaver said. “We’re going to need somebody besides me who can astrogate. We’re going to need to send grad students to their schools to understand the theory behind their systems. They’re going to need schools, and supplies and lots of food from the Adar for the time being…”

  “And now we’re getting into details,” the President said. “For which I have a very able staff. But I wanted to hear what your thoughts were on the broader picture and I’m delighted that they match my own so well. There will be changes and I’m sure that we will weather them as America always has. But a few are more immediate. Captain Blankemeier.”

  “Mr. President?”

  “I know that you love this new ship that the Hexosehr built much as you loved the one scrapped on the
arms of Orion. However, you are leaving command.”

  “Yes, Mr. President,” Spectre said, his face falling.

  “You’re no longer eligible to command it. I just sent your name to the Senate for confirmation of promotion to rear admiral. It was pointed out to me by some senior officers that there were boards and such for such things and that you are very junior to be a flag officer and I pointed out that not only did we need some admirals who had actually been in space combat, I was commander in chief so I trumped them.”

  “Thank you, Mr. President,” Spectre said, nodding.

  “I’ve been told that as a bipartisan show of support, you’re assured confirmation. I was assured that shortly after I showed the Select Armed Forces Committee your mission report. Commander Weaver.”

  “Mr. President?”

  “You’ve been what the Navy calls ‘frocked’ for some reason to captain,” the President said. “Which means you’ve got the rank but not the pay. I’m told the pay will come along in time. The same people that mentioned boards were somewhat more vehement that you did not yet have sufficient experience as a naval officer to assume command of the Blade Two.”

  “Understood, Mr. President,” Bill said. “And agreed.”

  “I wouldn’t say that the Chief of Naval Operations pitched a fit in this very room, but that’s because I’m polite,” the President continued. “Persons who shall remain nameless, however, were more than willing to accept you taking the position of Executive Officer, despite the bump in rank which would technically disqualify you, after I again had to use the phrase ‘commander in chief.’ The Blade, until we have other deep space ships, will probably be undergoing a series of skippers. We need officers with experience in space, simple as that. To an extent, in your new position as XO, it will be your job to train them. They will, of course, be your superior officers. They will have time in grade on you, not to mention a superior position in the chain of command. But persons who shall remain nameless were in agreement that one captain can say something to another captain, even if that person is their commander, which a commander could not. If that sentence parses out. Are we on the same page?”

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