Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part CXIX: Blitzkrieg

This page Copyright 2019, Karl Leffler

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

A Close Transit out of a gravity well was less dangerous than inbound; the risk of gravitational shear was reduced with distance. That still didn't make it safe.
The Jeffersonian flotilla now consisted of one new heavy cruiser, one upgraded antique light cruiser, one modern and two older destroyers. The Free Glaut Armada counted one damaged light cruiser and a single damaged destroyer. Two more destroyers were tactically trapped on the surface, and another two, badly hurt, were limping toward the hyper Limit. One of the Armada supply ships was in formation with the combined force, while the other had already Transitioned to a rendezvous point. No other friendly ships remained in the system.
Quickly Danner outlined his plan. In holoconference, Ya'Kur's eyes widened, then narrowed. He nodded, and transmitted, "All ships," Ya'Kur ordered, "receive and follow navigation commands from Aurora!"
It took minutes to charge the Initiator of a Marsten Drive. After defeating the second detachment, the combined flotilla was coasting away from the planet, outside the hyper Limit, while the remaining tanker attempted to refuel them. Now they all boosted again, toward the enemy, as that was the direction in which they already had momentum; changing or reversing course in space, even with the power of the fusion torch, cost fuel and time. Each ship jinked randomly, at the whims of their helmsbeings, while keeping to a base course.

It took a fraction of a second to make a Short Transit of about two light-seconds at more than a hundred twenty times lightspeed.
To emerge behind the oncoming Flike ships.
This close to the planet's gravity well, it still counted as a Close Transit, with Transition Effects for the organic crews. Except for the past few hours, none of the Free Glaut crews could be considered combat veterans; but nobody else in the explored galaxy had as much experience crowding the Limit as Aurora.
Brttlb had hurriedly warned his crews, and they were motivated by their cause. They fought to overcome their nausea and hallucinations - more severe than other Common Life suffered - and resume their duties.
The ships were separated for safe Transition, at least forty kilometers between them. With their Marsten Fields at full strength - and their fusion plants burning the last of their fuel - their systems were unaffected by the Transition EMPs.
So were the enemy, but they were still caught by surprise. One moment the rebels and Jeffersonians were before them, in their sights; the next, they disappeared from Marsten Detectors, while their lightspeed images lingered; and in the next moment, the Flike battleship was under fire from less than three thousand kilometers.
Concentrated pulses from Class Ten Marsten Guns bored into the battleship's stern, tearing its torches apart. Plasma erupted sideways, giving the ship a spin. Fusion reactors scrammed and primary systems died, but as they did a quick-thinking Flike, organic backup crew to the fire-control computer, loosed a Class Twenty beam.
It caught JRS Elwert squarely, piercing the length of the destroyer. There was no possibility of survivors.
The combined flotilla had Transitioned from Marsten's fourth dimension to Einstein's three on an intercept course for the Flike formation, and at a quarter of a percent of lightspeed. Elwert had been killed by a lucky shot, but the Flike also lacked experience in naval combat. They could not track such fast-moving targets.
Aurora could. Her mind was linked to the Jeffersonian computers installed in the surviving Free Glaut ships, and to her fellow Republic Navy warships. Following her Captain's plan - a thing she still could not quite imagine for herself, not with his organic mind's speed and certainty - she directed the combined flotilla's weapons, spreading or concentrating them as necessary, Marsten Guns, lasers, missiles, kinetic slugs. As her formation merged with and passed through the enemy's, she even skewed the other ships so the wash of their fusion torches would sear Flike hulls, at the least destroying sensors. The Flike ships scattered in disarray, even striking each other with panicked crossfire. Naturally the battleship had been their command unit, and now they had lost unified control.

By this time the two Armada destroyers on the surface had loaded the last of the refugees, and had processed water into barely enough fuel for launch. With no one friendly left alive on the surface, they did a thing rarely done in the history of spaceflight: after using oxygen-hydrogen rockets to lift a few hundred meters from the planet, they ignited fusion torches within the atmosphere. Far more efficient than chemical propulsion, the torches scorched the surface like an ongoing nuclear weapon, leaving a kilometers-wide desert in their wake.
The ships bent their courses, diverging slightly from each other for navigation room, using the planet's rotation for orbital advantage, building as much velocity as they could, racing to put the planet between themselves and the enemy. Acceleration of nearly fifty meters crushed the occupants. The older and weaker died, suffocated by their own weight... but they died free, never again to be slaves.

With the Flike detachment in disarray behind them, Ya'Kur's and Brttlb's ships Transitioned again, to positions and speeds determined by Sarah Heusner, Prrg, and Aurora. All the other ships disappeared, to the rendezvous point where the second Armada tanker waited, light-hours away near a comet in the outer system, already mining fuel.
Aurora had a different course.
She emerged 0.7 light-seconds from Rntggld, dumping her relativistic velocity in hyperspace, generating an enormous Transition EMP. Her course was set to dip inside the Limit, intercept the rising pair of destroyers, and exit the safe hyperspace Limit again.
Hours before, IS MacAndrews had caught Aurora's fifth shuttle like a baseball outfielder, before all aboard were murdered by the Glautak Consolidation. Now she intended something comparable. As she fine-tuned her course, the destroyers rose to meet her, burning at maximum with nothing to lose.
The Flike detachment continued to close, reorganizing under the captain of one of the heavy cruisers; but their battleship was crippled and out of the fight, as were three destroyers and another cruiser, raked by every weapon the Free Glaut and Jeffersonian ships could bring to bear in their slashing relativistic attack. There was a risk that the Flike would try to copy Danner's plan, to make a Short Transit to close and reengage, but he doubted they had the skill - and he was right. A satellite deployed days earlier showed they had turned over and were burning to brake for orbital insertion, to take possession of an empty planet.
Still, half an hour passed before the Armada destroyers reached the cruiser at the very edge of the Limit. They did not have enough fuel of their own to reach the rendezvous through hyperspace. Quickly they came alongside, and were hastily grappled to Aurora's hull. The cruiser's armor prevented major damage to herself, but the destroyers, lightly built, suffered caved-in plates and lost some atmosphere from outer compartments. Fuel lines were cross-connected by Aurora's robots, and under her control, the three ships boosted as one, to gain a further safety margin. The destroyers' Marsten Drives were shut down, physically disconnected from power so they could not interfere with Aurora's. At Gambori years ago, she had extended her Marsten Field to envelop an asteroid, bringing it into planetary orbit for convenient mining. With the other two ships tight against her hull this was not necessary. With the last of her fuel, she Transitioned, and the evacuation of Rntggld was complete.

Ten light-hours from Rntggld's star, specks in a night too vast to practically search, the survivors gathered around a comet, filling their fuel tanks with disassembled water. Vengeance and Steeltown now docked with Aurora, the noses of the three ships coming together at an angle which allowed the use of Aurora's grav-rings. The destroyers she had carried from Rntggld stood apart for their own resupply. The two damaged Armada destroyers had made it here, though one could not go further; she was being abandoned and roughly salvaged, her crew, passengers and useful materiel distributed to other ships. For the past sixty-odd hours this had gone on, while Ralph, Delilah, and several of Aurora's robots were making rounds to tend the injured. The Reserve Privateers and other refugee ships were gone, making their own ways to Republic space.
In the spin-weight of Captain Danner's quarters, Grkkbt stood on three tentacles to wrap the other three around Solomon's hand, trembling with gratitude. {You shall be a hero to our people forever, Captain,} the acting Chancellor-in-Exile said. Brttlb was speechless, quivering at Attention, one tentacle cocked in a Human-style salute until Danner returned the gesture.
Ya'Kur was more restrained but still said, "That's some Navy Cross stuff, Sol. At the least. I already sent my recommendation. You could be the first spacer in history to get both the Legion and the Medal." Ya'Kur took Danner's free hand in his own. "And by Hr'Gen, you earned them both."
Danner never knew how to respond to that.

Other problems remained. At this distance from the Central Worlds of the Republic, even with the Sixth Generation Improved Marsten Device, signals took more than a Terran day to travel each way. Ya'Kur and Aurora had both been sending reports since Aurora's arrival at Rntggld, but so far had received only acknowledgments. Now detailed responses began to come through.
The destruction of MacAndrews and Ja'Nok'Hrek were not the only acts of war by the Glautak/Flike Alliance. All along this stretch of the Frontier, independent worlds, and even a Caledonian colony, had been attacked and invaded. Reports of the action at Rntggld were only now reaching Monticello, but another Alliance target had been a Jeffersonian Territory, Hailey's Star. For the second time in the history of the Jeffersonian Republic, Congress had declared war.
Notice had been sent to Kmar and Jagrash. There had been no response. Nor had there been reports from the embassy staff there. It was believed the people Aurora had carried to the enemy capitol had been imprisoned or murdered before they could be withdrawn. No mention was made, even to Captain Danner, of Frashkra, Karrok, and the Flike Resistance - but that could be operational security, even in what was supposed to be a secure message.
From the invaded planets, stay-behinds were sending reports: Flike occupation troops were landing on the targeted worlds, brutally suppressing populations, including harvesting them for food. Meanwhile the warships were refueling and resupplying, making repairs at captured shipyards if they existed, or with their own support ships. It seemed that millions of fighting-age male Flike had been mobilized, and were being carried in cryoliners, densely packed for efficiency and using the Empire's own derivative of Chikaran technology. As they approached a target, troops were revived, transferred to landers, and deployed. The empty landers then returned to their fleet - there seemed to be at least five Alliance Navy fleets in operation - which would repeat the process at the next victim, leaving a handful of warships behind for security.
The Office of Naval Intelligence believed their next stop to be Sidonia, which had successfully petitioned for Membership in the Republic while Aurora had been in Transit to Rntggld. All naval and Reserve Privateer forces in the vicinity were ordered to converge there as soon as possible. Use of the Blain Drive was authorized. On Danner's advice, Ya'Kur informed the Free Glaut of the existence of the Blain Drive, which was necessary for next steps. It was fortunate that the inventor of the Drive was along, because it was about to be used in a way it never had before.
Using the Marsten Drive to carry ships or objects through the first level of hyperspace had been done for centuries. Jenny Blain and Aurora ran numbers and saw no reason why it couldn't work in the second level as well. Vengeance and one Armada destroyer were grappled to Steeltown; the other three surviving Armada destroyers to Aurora; the two Armada tankers were paired with Ripley and Urakaze, which possessed the Blain Drive, but not the Helium-3 power plants to sustain it. When each ship had loaded as much fuel as it could carry, they made a test run, a light-day in the direction of Sidonia, to rendezvous and report, since communication between ships in the first level of hyperspace was difficult, and in the second, so far impossible.
A distance Voyager 1 required half a century to cover took less than three minutes at more than five hundred times lightspeed. Everything went smoothly, and the survivors of the Battle of Rntggld streaked toward the next battlefield. At Aurora's best speed in Marstenspace, it was twenty Monticellan days, six hundred hours, from Rntggld to Sidonia. In Blainspace it was little more than a third that time.

10 Secondmonth 573JR
27 August 2367CE
Sidonia Territory, Jeffersonian Republic

They found more panic than the Free Glaut had displayed. Perhaps it was thousands of years of conditioning to always obey the Consolidation's authority, making Glaut of both castes more fatalistic than other races. Perhaps it was the realization that not everybody could get off this planet before the enemy arrived. Rntggld had been a new colony with only seventeen thousand people, all of them much smaller than most Common Life. Sidonia had a hundred and thirty thousand Humans, Eyani, and others.
There were only two orbital stations at Sidonia, both small and prefabbed, for administration, weather, and communications. Still, both were crowded with shuttles and aircars, transmitting on every frequency, begging for a ship, offering absurd sums. On the surface, Port Sidonia, the only major city, was near riot. The few ships which had landed risked being swarmed - one had been, then launched in panic before refueling. It crashed a dozen kilometers out of town, killing all aboard... along with hundreds incinerated at takeoff. That had dampened the mobs, but not by much. Females were offering favors of the flesh, everyone was offering precious metals or gemstones.
That was in town, where more than half the population congregated. The rural dwellers, farmers and ranchers, loggers and miners, had a different view. They were running their fabbers non-stop, to make more fabbers, to make weapons and gear for resistance. Some of their ancestors had done it before, on New Israel.

For naval forces, the Republic had gathered light carriers Peleliu and Daraea, each with three squadrons, the latter ship built and crewed by Siv; seven heavy cruisers, three of the same Bremerton class as Steeltown, the others older and mismatched; four light cruisers, none alike; and twenty-two destroyers, nine of the current seven-kiloton Maerca class, the rest older and smaller and of different types, like Urakaze and John W. Ripley. Thirteen Reserve Privateers were also present, but acting in support roles, as tankers, freighters, and transports. Females and children were being loaded on the Privateers for evacuation. In command was Brevet Commodore Piet van Agt, a Human from the Second Wave planet Nieuwe Leeuwen, aboard JRS Cincinnati, CA254.
Steeltown, Aurora, the other two destroyers, and what was left of the Free Glaut Armada were in holding positions in the outer system, where they could Short Transit for action - and where they could refill fuel tanks drained by an eleven-light-year Transit through Blainspace. They were hiding, so as not to reveal the existence of the Blain Drive to probes, spies, or potential traitors who might connect them to Rntggld and do some math. Supply and repair ships went out to meet them, with food, munitions, spare parts, and more fuel than they could mine. The last refugees from Rntggld were offloaded for transfer to the outbound Privateers. They would be kept out of communication, for security.
Messages met the combined flotilla too. Nothing had been heard from Rntggld since the evacuation, and wouldn't be; there were no friendlies left there. Reports from spies and Resistance members in the Glautak Consolidation and the Flike Empire told of full mobilization, even more ships, hundreds, than had been seen before; evidently there were more hidden shipyards. As days passed and more ships arrived to defend Sidonia, reports came of more Frontier worlds falling to the leapfrog strategy of the Alliance. It seemed that Rntggld had been their biggest speed-bump so far, and their only victory meaningfully less than total.
Equally disturbing were reports from Oskran, where there were increasing rumors, but still no proof, that the Kingdom of Garch was in contact with the Glautak/Flike Alliance. Another allied naval buildup was in progress at Oskran, and the population of the Lii Confederation, with their newly-fellow Jeffersonians from Hewnak, were being mobilized for war.

Word also came that Solomon Danner had been awarded the Navy Cross for exceptional valor and presence of mind in the face of the enemy, while JRS Aurora received a second Pentamvirate Unit Citation. Lieutenant Aurora received a Silver Star for her daring rescue of the last refugees. Sarah Heusner and Prrg received second Distinguished Flying Crosses for piloting and navigation.
Engineer's Mate Trllbl received a posthumous Crimson Band, for having been killed in action by an enemy of the Jeffersonian Republic.

Observations of specific Alliance ships above one world and another gave an estimate of fleet speed: c125. That in turn gave an estimated time for the enemy's arrival at Sidonia.
Which was now.
Continued in the next excerpt....
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