Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part CXVIII: The Battle of Rntggld

This page Copyright 2019, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
30 Firstmonth 573JR
13 August 2367CE
Rntggld

By this time the main Alliance force was twenty minutes from engaging the Free Glaut Armada, which was more than thirty minutes from the Limit. The rebel supply ships, carrying food and fuel and refugees, had the rebel warships between themselves and the Alliance; they would need to Transition out first, to a rendezvous point a few light-minutes away, far enough to avoid detection but near enough to refuel the warships, who were about to spend all the fuel they had. Unfortunately the tankers were boosting even slower, thirty-seven meters, and risking engine damage even so. Their course was divergent from the Armada's warships, to gain more distance from the enemy.
Handfuls of refugees were aboard the warships - mostly adult males, some of whom could lend a tentacle as crew. The two tankers between them carried over eight hundred females and children.
Brttlb pointed this out: {Our enemy has come,} he transmitted, {to return us to slavery, or to murder us outright. The future of our race is even now rushing to escape the Consolidation's tyranny. We must buy them the time they need, even at the cost of our lives. All Free Glaut ships, prepare to charge!}
The light cruiser, renamed to what translated as Vengeance, was Brttlb's flagship, and led the way, the nine destroyers arrayed in a wall to provide as much cover as possible to the escaping cargotankers. They faced three heavy cruisers, one light, and eleven destroyers. The Jeffersonian contingent, around the other side of the planet, would not be able to help them until they could safely Transition, and that would not happen before the rebels were in range of the Alliance's heavy guns - Class Eleven, approximately, on these Glaut-built ships.
The minutes passed and the range closed. Marsten beams came from the Alliance ships, but with poor accuracy; they had some training, copied from the other starfaring nations, but lacked experience.
Brttlb's fleet held their fire.
Closer the two groups flew, well under a light-second now. Some of the Alliance beams began to strike. A rebel destroyer was hit, losing one of its two fusion torches. It fell out of formation, then altered course to limp toward the hyper Limit. Its odds were not good. Beams glanced off Vengeance's hull, destroying two turrets and the beings within them.
Still the guns of Brttlb's ships were silent.
Closer they came; three-quarters of a light-second. A second Armada destroyer was hit squarely and shattered, a few escape pods launching. A following beam murdered them, as the other detachment had done to the refugees. More minutes passed as every ship in the system continued to accelerate, their speeds rising. A third destroyer was hit, its nose torn open, pieces of equipment and people tumbling away, but it kept boosting.
For all his bombast and drama, Brttlb had paid attention when veteran warriors gave him lessons. At half a light-second, one hundred fifty thousand kilometers, the remaining warships of the Free Glaut Armada turned hard, presented broadsides, and half their Guns volleyed in unison.
Glautak Consolidation Ship Rectifier was struck by some twenty beams, what Humans would call Class Seven and Class Four. The Alliance flagship might have survived any one of them, but not all at once. They overwhelmed the heavy cruiser's Marsten Field, relativistic particles drilling into the hull, through armor that was a mere token compared to Aurora's, into compartments and equipment and people within. The ship's torches died and it began to tumble, the rest of the Alliance force rushing past.
The Consolidation was a top-down system in every way: economy, religion, industry, and especially military. Rectifier had been the command ship for their tactical network. Glaut starship captains were chosen for obedience and political reliability, not for initiative and leadership. The crews were indoctrinated to never question orders. Now there were no orders, their admiral out of communication and likely dead. Almost instantly the Alliance formation began to break up.
Brttlb had been a troublemaker for years, punished by assignment to a backwater world populated mostly by the low-caste Glauteb. He had led the mutiny, having spent years at Rntggld feeling out his subordinates, moving them in or out of position. He had spent the last several days in conference with Solomon Danner, who had beaten superior forces twice. The captains and crews of Brttlb's ships were loyal, to him and to their cause. He treated them as individuals, each with value, unlike Consolidation doctrine. He explained in detail what each Glaut's job would be and why, what to do if something went wrong, what to do if that didn't work.
The Free Glaut Armada shifted targets to the next heavy cruiser. While the first half of their weapons recharged, the second, still energized - Vengeance rolled to bring unused weapons to bear - volleyed again. This target came apart, into three major pieces and thousands smaller.
The Jeffersonian computers aboard the Armada's ships kept their own tactical network running, even as return fire killed a fourth rebel destroyer. Now the first half of the Marsten Guns were recharged, and repeated the effort against the third Alliance heavy. This one maneuvered to evade but was still holed by particle beams, shifting down from hyperspace to near lightspeed as they passed through the ship's Field to smash and incinerate machinery and crew. This ship vectored away, out of the fight.
That was all the Alliance's heaviest Marsten Guns, but the remaining enemy light cruiser and eleven destroyers hadn't been touched. The Alliance and Armada were all within theoretical range of each other now, the distance ever closing and speeds increasing. Class Four beams now crisscrossed hyperspace between the ships, but Vengeance still had eight of her ten Class Sevens, three of which made short work of the enemy light cruiser. The Alliance fire was scattered, lacking concentration. One beam struck Vengeance probably by chance, knocking out another of those Guns and killing its organic backup crew.
Brttlb, for all his loud words before, was now icy calm, assigning ships and Guns to targets, working his way through the Alliance destroyers, even as two more of his own fell to enemy fire....
...Until all his enemies were crippled, fleeing, or destroyed.

The Jeffersonian detachment, including Aurora, had by this time reached the hyperspace Limit. The three destroyers hadn't yet fired a shot. Placing at least two hundred kilometers between each ship to prevent interference from their Marsten Fields, they Transitioned away from Rntggld, spent minutes recharging their Initators, then Transitioned again, emerging from hyperspace ahead of the still-boosting Free Glaut Armada. The nature of hyperspace as accessed by the Marsten Drive allowed them to emerge with a direction and velocity of their choice; they would make formation with the Armada.
Such as remained. Of their original ten warships, the cruiser Vengeance had taken damage, losing weapons and crew, while two destroyers had been badly hurt, four destroyed, and the last three were reporting damage or casualties, some from enemy fire, some from prolonged acceleration. The two supply ships, on a divergent course, were approaching the Limit now. The last two refugee ships, Danielle and Catalina, would be safely gone in minutes; their priority was now to get their passengers to safety.
The Alliance forces had been nearly annihilated. Two of their destroyers and one heavy cruiser might have survivors aboard but the rest had all been destroyed. It was a triumph of tactics and leadership against numerical superiority, and a testament to the rebel cause. Though Grkbbt, Brttlb, and nearly all other leaders and officers were Glautak, many of the rebel crews were Glauteb, recruited and trained since the mutiny, and instructed in modern techniques only days before the battle. Word of Trllbl's brilliance was also spreading, and no one could honestly claim that Glauteb were inferior to Glautak.

It had been explained to Admiral Brttlb that Captain Ya'Kur was in military command of Jeffersonian forces in the system, while Danner was the highest-ranked government representative as Ambassador-at-Large, a title he'd been asked by the Pentamvirate to hold, and to use when necessary, since his Liberation of Ude. Chancellor Grkbbt was aboard Vengeance and he, Brttlb, Danner and Ya'Kur joined in holoconference.
{Now that the threat seems to have been eliminated,} Grkbbt observed, {we can finish the evacuation.} He waved a tentacle. {As you advised, Captain Danner, we will not return until the war situation allows it.}
"It may not be that simple," Danner answered. "The Alliance still has ships in the system. Though they're not really combatants, troopships and freighters, they will have sent word to the Alliance by now. Reinforcements may be on the way as we speak."
{Surely they will take weeks to arrive?}
"We can't count on that," Ya'Kur said. "For all we know they're just a light-hour away and could arrive at any second." Again his hologram nodded at Danner's.
Solomon said, "I'm not suggesting you abandon the people still on the planet. I am strongly advising that if you do go back for them, it is with a minimum number of ships and a maximum of speed. Are you still in communication with the surface?"
{Yes, I have already spoken with my deputy remaining there. Some twelve hundred people remain.}
Danner looked at Ya'Kur's hologram, then at Grkbbt's. "Chancellor, the state of war we were trying to avoid, by delaying your recognition as a sovereign state, is now upon us. Do you formally request recognition at this time?"
{Yes, Ambassador, and more. On behalf of the exiled people of Rntggld, I request that my people and state be considered for Membership in the Jeffersonian Republic. Of seventeen thousand, I would say at least a quarter are willing to bear arms. Though not as many might be able.} Grkbbt turned to Brttlb, beside him on Vengeance's bridge.
{Before the atrocities committed against them,} the rebel admiral said, {I spoke with Grbblb the Liberator and Lady Trllbl. They told me of the liberty and respect they and all our people have found beneath the Jeffersonian flag. I swear myself to the Republic's service. I have made announcement throughout my fleet, that any who do not wish to follow me may take ships and go where they will. Not a single Glaut has.
{Captain Ya'Kur, I place the Free Glaut Armada, and myself, under your command. Use us as you will.}
With a glance to and a nod from Aurora's gynoid, the process was begun to accept the Armada, at least, as Provisional Citizens of the Jeffersonian Republic, in military service in time of war. She had also been sending constant updates to the Republic's government. So far only acknowledgments had come back. Now Danner asked, "Would it be faster to land a ship on the surface to load the last refugees?"
Ya'Kur, with some hesitation, answered, "Ripley and Urakaze can make planetfall." Any ship touching down would be tactically helpless for hours. He didn't want those ships to be his, but these new allies were proving themselves worthy, against an enemy that had murdered his fellow Jeffersonians.
{No, Admiral - let me call you such-} Brttlb said, {your ships are more advanced, your crews far more experienced, than my own. We would not have won our recent battle without your tutelage, and even so our losses were great. If more enemies do arrive, your ships will be needed up here to deal with them. Two of my surviving destroyers will land, and load as many as possible. Preparations are underway now. What we need, however, is fuel. I am recalling one of our own tankers, while the other escapes to the rendezvous point in deep space. With assistance from Lieutenant Heusner, we will make Close Transits to land and relaunch as quickly as we can.}

Vengeance was not designed for landing, and three of Brttlb's five remaining destroyers were too badly damaged to attempt it. Two of the little three-kiloton starships thundered down to a lakeshore clearing. Crew in protective suits risked burns and worse to run hoses out, long before the normal waiting period. Small and weak compared to vertebrates like Humans or Eyani, the Glaut had developed powered suits, like Mobile Infantry armor, and handling machines to wrangle the heavy hoses and pumps. First the water was pumped through, and sprayed to cool the ships and the ground approaching them, so the refugees could board. Then more water was loaded for fuel, to be separated by electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen for the rocket fuel needed to launch again, while deuterium was separated or generated for the fusion reactors and torches.
The hundreds of remaining refugees queued for boarding. No luggage was allowed this time. Again, children and females were loaded first, then whatever males would fit. The refugees had been surprisingly disciplined before; they still were, but Aurora's remotes on the surface showed an edge of panic rising. In another hour, the ships would be refueled enough to launch and Transition, and all who could be boarded would be. It would be an hour or more after that before they could safely Transition away.
That was when the third Alliance detachment appeared.

They had already been en route when the battle began and had just now arrived: seven destroyers, one light and two heavy cruisers, and a battleship. They Transitioned at about two and a quarter light-seconds from the planet, above the Jeffersonian and Armada formation.
"This doesn't make sense," Ya'Kur complained. "Why attack before these ships arrived? Together they could have wiped us out."
"'Never interrupt your enemy while he's making a mistake,'" Danner quoted. "But we still have a problem." Two Armada destroyers and a thousand refugees on the surface.
To answer Ya'Kur's question, some of these were the first ships built in the yards orbiting the Flike homeworld of Kmar. Their crews were almost entirely Flike, with some Glautak advisors. Impatience and arrogance, and prejudice against their Flike allies, had caused the Glautak Consolidation to attack the rebels before the Flike ships' arrival - but there was no way for Ya'Kur and Danner to know that now.
The destroyers and cruisers were slight variations on the Consolidation designs already encountered here, but the battleship was something new: a cylinder with truncated-conical ends, it massed at least eighty kilotons. Data received through ONI and the Order of Librarians suggested Class Twenty Marsten Guns; Aurora's telescopes estimated fourteen of them, with Class Six secondaries and a plethora of lasers and mass drivers. The whole fleet was boosting toward Rntggld at more than forty meters.
Class Twenty Marsten Guns had a theoretical range of six light-seconds, but the limitations of targeting equipment made them effective at less than two, except for terror-bombardment of a planet's surface. Ya'Kur and Brttlb, now just outside the hyper Limit, were already in range and beams came at them.
To his combined flotilla, Ya'Kur ordered, "All ships, evasive maneuvers. Prepare to Transition."
{No! Admiral!} Brttlb cried. {We cannot abandon the innocent!}
"We may not have a choice, Admiral, if any of us are getting out of this alive." Switching to a private channel, he asked, "Sol, any suggestions?"
"Yeah."
Continued in the next excerpt....
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