Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part CXXI: Schwerpunkt

This page Copyright (c) 2019, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
19 Secondmonth 573JR
7 September 2367CE
Sidonia Territory, Jeffersonian Republic

Sentient beings invent tools to modify their environment, to extend their reach, strengthen their grasp, ease their labors. Among the most powerful of these tools is the computer. Able to perform calculations faster, more accurately, and in greater number than biological minds, computers allowed great leaps forward in engineering, construction, travel, medicine, every field of endeavor engaged by organic life.
Among the first uses, indeed the impetus for the invention of the computer, was the art of war.
Those early mechanical devices directed the launching of torpedoes, the firing of artillery. Their electronic children decoded enemy messages and encoded those of their creators. Rapidly the computer evolved, becoming smaller, faster, more powerful, more durable - less expensive, to the point where they could be used disposably in precision-guided bombs and missiles.
Peacetime benefits spun off. Networks of orbiting satellites could give hours or even days of warning against storms at sea; they could locate objects on a planet's surface to within a handful of meters, eliminating errors of navigation. Communications became practically instant across a whole world. Entertainment and news and information from an entire civilization were at any single being's fingertips, on a device which could fit in a pocket.
Yet it was war to which computers so often returned. Computers could aim weapons with greater precision, react to enemy movements with greater speed, than their builders ever could. Increasingly computers were trusted with automatic defenses, like point-defense weapons on ships, or the tripwire missile-launch protocols which had ravaged Vlosshome and Chikar.
After the Sherrington Atrocity, Aurora and her family had written computer programs, designed computerized weapon stations, to defend against attacks with weapons traveling at percentages of the speed of light. The programs and designs had spread throughout the explored galaxy, each world or nation adding and testing their own improvements. The subroutines were always running in the background of every computer to which they were assigned, to automatically respond if relativistic objects were detected on a collision course with whatever was to be protected. Established planets, like the Central Worlds of the Republic, now had defenses which were expected to survive bombardment many times greater than that inflicted on Sherrington.
Sidonia had built such platforms... but not enough.

The little two-kiloton gunships, believed to be built by or for the Blood Rose, Transitioned at twenty-three percent of lightspeed, five light-seconds from Sidonia's surface. There were twenty-eight of them, each releasing four half-ton kinetic slugs - but in the moments before they did, they used the Class-Nine Marsten Guns in their spines to target Sidonia's meager orbital defenses. There were only four of the stations, in synchronous orbit, equipped with Class-Eight Guns, and enough Marsten Devices to generate a defensive Field.
Like most ships and stations of the current era, unlike centuries-old Aurora, these platforms did not carry any meaningful armor. Particle beams tore them open. Only one of the stations got a shot off before dying, and that missed.
The same subroutines were running in every Allied ship, and had been left active by protocol. Marsten Guns aimed and fired under computer control, without their crews' permission.
Half-ton lumps of iron were difficult to destroy, small and problematic to track, but the reaction of being blasted by charged particles could knock them off course - and without a defensive Field, the Marsten Gun drilled tunnels of hyperspace, sending whatever it struck elsewhere. Some of the kinetic projectiles vanished, others broke into smaller pieces which would cause less harm or would miss the planet altogether... but again, not enough.
Each half-ton projectile, at nearly a quarter of the speed of light, carried a kinetic energy of one point two zettajoules, or in nuclear weapon terms, about two hundred eighty-five megatons of TNT.
Fifty-three struck Sidonia.
Three - for redundancy - were targeted on Port Sidonia. Only one of those had been intercepted. The largest city on the planet became a kilometers-deep crater. Governor Alice McKinley vanished with eighty thousand of her people.
More slugs struck all across the planet, on or near the smaller population centers, coastal areas, fault lines, causing tsunami and eruptions. This was a more sudden attack than had been performed on Genc; there was no drawn-out timing to cover the world's whole surface as it turned, all the strikes were targeted on one side - which was moot because that was where nearly all the population could be found. Of 130,000 residents of Sidonia, some five thousand women and children had been evacuated. As the Blood Rose - Aurora's sensors and Aurora's brain picked out their symbol on the streaking gunships - completed their attack, less than one thousand were left alive, and most of those would be dead in hours.
The interception software concentrated on the kinetic weapons, anything on a direct collision course with the planet. The ships dropping them and vectoring away were a lower priority. There were not enough Guns in the Allied network to engage every target.
Each gunship carried a pair of Class Four Marsten Guns on its flanks, and these were used too, though to lesser effect. JRS Atlanta was hit; her Marsten Field downshifted the particles to lightspeed but her modern lack of armor allowed the beam to cut deep inside her, wrecking one of her main fusion plants, costing her a second torch, and killing at least twenty crew. Acting Commodore Yale, struggling to overcome shock and horror, ordered, "All ships, prepare to Transition. The only things we can save from this are ourselves."

The Allied ships had already cut their acceleration to charge their Initiators. Yale ordered a rendezvous at the same point as the Free Glaut Armada tankers, hiding in the outer system, along with the carriers, which had no offensive weapons of their own and whose flight groups had lost a third of their numbers.
In the minutes this took, the flock of enemy gunships returned.
Now they were moving much slower, but still faster than most ships and crews had dealt with before: half a percent of lightspeed, one and a half megameters per second. Their spinal Guns began piercing Allied ships. Atlanta and Vengeance were hit; Justice tumbled out of control and began breaking up. Ten such weapons were concentrated on Aurora, but at the present distance and speeds, few hit, and none could penetrate her anachronistic armor.
There was no time for warning or explanation. Aurora took over the tactical network and every Marsten Gun in the Allied fleet. She believed the enemy had spent all their kinetic weapons, and she was right; each gunship only carried four, though it was not hard to see how they could carry dozens - shortsightedness in their design.
Now she felt the sparks of imagination and creativity she had been seeking, envying, since her awakening in battle so many years ago. She led her targets, anticipated their evasions. Inspired by her tiny biological sister Sarah she took over her own helm controls and jinked randomly, faster than enemy gunners or even enemy computers could respond. The violence of her maneuvers would have broken bones or even killed crewbeings who were not secured in their couches, but her Family were all combat veterans. They hung on, as their control screens showed "COMPUTER OVERRIDE".
All her biological crew were in suits and most compartments had been depressurized for battle. Aurora's gynoid didn't need a suit but wore one anyway, to protect its softer components. It lay in the couch beside her Captain's. The artificial woman had been shut down to free more processing cycles, he knew as much, but still he reached across and took her gloved hand in his own.

Enemy gunships began exploding now, as brief tunnels of hyperspace sought them out. Ten of the twenty-eight had targeted Aurora; now more joined, as though somehow knowing she was the key to the Allied defense... or as though they had a grudge against her, personally. Class Nine beams converged on her, and she increased the strength of her Marsten Field to neutralize them, rolling herself so damage would not be concentrated enough to penetrate. Tons of her armor flaked off and tumbled away. Her own Captain's quarters were hit. Two sections of her aft grav-ring were destroyed. A beam slashed through Craft Bay Three and into Four Boat, her last surviving shuttle.
Every surviving Allied ship and Gun was now an extension of her will. She took over each ship's own computer, rerouting power, capacitors from disabled Guns feeding those not yet destroyed, rolling and pitching hulls to bring weapons to bear. Her computer mind, mysteriously awakened by the stress of a hyperspace Transition, reached its full capacity.
FGAS Swiftwing fired her last three Class Four Guns and one connected, slicing a Blood Rose gunship from bow to midships. It went ballistic, venting atmosphere flipping it end-for-end with increasing frequency until it tore itself apart. A Class Ten from JRS Atlanta struck another gunship's stern and its single fusion torch ruptured, the plasma climbing up the length of the ship until only a glowing shell was left. One gunship's helmsbeing was almost as good as Sarah Heusner; he dodged two of Aurora's Class Tens, only to fly into a Class Seven from FGAS Vengeance.
For more than a minute this went on, as the gunships streaked past at fifteen hundred kilometers per second and the aiming mechanisms of the Marsten Guns of the Allied Fleet struggled to track them. The second Caledonian destroyer took three hits from the gunships' Class Four Guns and her bow separated, but her control center was deep inside and what was left of RCSGS Gairsay remained in action.
Now all the gunships aimed their spinal Class Nine Guns at Aurora, and as the distance closed, more hits were made. One beam penetrated the bridge, which had already been depressurized. Only her Marsten Field saved her crew, as the particles Transitioned from hyperspace to realspace, passing only three meters above her Captain's face.
Then the two formations were separating again, beyond each others' effective range.
Acting Commodore Yale, his voice tinged with pain both emotional and physical, ordered, "All ships, Transition to rendezvous as soon as you are able."
There might have been calls for help from the surface of Sidonia, but they could not penetrate the clouds of smoke and dust above the glowing circles which scarred a once-living world.

After the passing engagement with the Blood Rose gunships, the Allied fleet was down to Atlanta, Aurora, a badly damaged FGAS Vengeance, four Jeffersonian destroyers, two light carriers which would be of little use in a modern fleet engagement, and the two Free Glaut Armada tankers. RCSGS Gairsay was being evacuated and quickly scavenged before what was left of her would be abandoned; so was FGAS Swiftwing. Their surviving crews were being distributed to appropriate ships, replacing casualties. The carriers would serve as expedient hospital ships, and would evacuate the Allied wounded to a world hopefully further from the invasion.
That would include Captain Tim Yale, who had lost a leg, and the other foot too. His suit's automatic tourniquets saved the rest of him, but he asked Solomon Danner to take command.
Danner had come aboard JRS Atlanta with the commanders of the other ships for a planning meeting. He turned to Brttlb, looking a question. The rebel Glautak said, {I follow Solomon the Brave and the Lady in White. I swear my fealty to the Jeffersonian Republic, as do all who follow me.}
Solomon nodded respectfully. "Very well. Once fueling and necessary repairs are complete, we will Transit together to Oskran. They have shipyards where more substantial repairs can be made, and by this time there's probably a hospital ship there too." Turning to Aurora's gynoid with a nod, he added, "I will notify Patrol Central and Oskran Sector Command to that effect immediately." The gynoid nodded as she composed and sent the messages.
Oskran was twelve and a third light-years from Sidonia... or where Sidonia had once been. Again the ships piggybacked, two destroyers with each Armada tanker, while Vengeance was grappled to Atlanta this time and Aurora flew by herself. One of each pair of destroyers had their Drive disabled for safety, as did the tankers; the other carried the bundle through Marstenspace and into Blainspace, while the tanker fed it hydrogen fuel in the absence of the long-range Helium-3 power plants.

In Japanese military doctrine, kessen was the ideal of the Final Battle, the Decisive Battle which would end a conflict with an overwhelming victory. The Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz formulated the principle in more detail as schwerpunkt, the center of gravity - selection of a target the enemy must defend, or strategic defense of one he must attack, forcing the enemy to gather in a place of the opposition's choosing. The later panzer general Heinz Guderian applied the concept tactically, as "Klotzen, nicht Kleckern" - smash, don't spatter, concentrating all available force on a single objective.
It was Tozama Daiki, the self-proclaimed Emperor of Space, who had launched this war, having spent decades secretly manipulating other races and nations to his own ends. Tozama had read Clausewitz, and the American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, and histories of battles including his own... and Solomon Danner's. He too sought the Decisive Battle - the kessen, the schwerpunkt.
He had found it at Oskran.
A world with mixed levels of development, and resources he could easily gather for his own use. A world with internal division, which he could exploit as vulnerability. A world with two of its eight nations Member States of the Jeffersonian Republic. A world the forces of civilization would be drawn to, forced to defend with everything they had... at the end of a long supply chain, where losses could not be quickly replaced; while his own mobile Empire of Space could deliver entire fleets to the battlefield, and his Balloon World shipyards, capable of independent interstellar travel, could devour a metal-rich asteroid with one end and produce new warships from the other. If, somehow, his more conventional naval forces were defeated, he could rely on his relativistic weapons to destroy any objective he could not seize, denying its resources - and population - to the enemy.
Such were his instructions to Fleet Admiral Kajima Juzo, aboard the Emperor-ship Itoku, in command of the accompanying Imperial fleet and of their Glaut and Flike allies. One or more of the Balloon Worlds had accompanied each of the five Glautak/Flike Alliance invasion fleets, providing support, control, and coordination - but secretly. Tozama-Tenno's alien catspaws had not yet failed to achieve their goals... until now.
They had nearly failed at Rntggld, where the Allied opposition had been more skilled and tenacious than had been seen elsewhere. Tozama noted with great interest how the antique cruiser Aurora, which had foiled his plans before, had taken part in that battle.
The first real failure of the invasion had been at Sidonia, where the same ship again, Aurora, had slaughtered the landing force, not only saving Sidonia from occupation and harvesting, but disrupting the same plans for the next eight worlds. Kajima took initiative and ordered his relativistic gunships to erase the provisional Jeffersonian Territory - if his Emperor could not claim the world and people, no one would.
Kajima, now the second-highest of all Tozama's subordinates, was aware of Aurora's record of interference with his master's plans. As they had done against Tozama's will at Sherrington, the gunships recharged their Marsten Drives, and now in accordance with Tozama's doctrine, Transitioned for a second pass, against the Allied fleet. Gensui-Kaigun-Taisho Kajima ordered them to specifically target the cruiser for destruction.
That did not work out as Kajima had hoped.

Even with the Marsten Device, all of this happened before Tozama could receive word... but he received it now.
Upon his throne within Jimmu, first of his Balloon-World ships, Tozama Daiki, Emperor of Space, sat with chin in hand and viewed recordings of Aurora in action against the Glautak/Flike Alliance at Rntggld, and his own forces at Sidonia. Kajima had sent his own recorded report; High Admiral John Copeland knelt before Tozama-Tenno's feet, prepared to give his own analysis. Beside Copeland, Master of Spies Saito watched with his Emperor as Aurora overcame overwhelming odds, saving not only herself but an unlikely number of her allies.
Jagrash, receiving news, was outraged that a million of his soldiers had been lost in a single stroke. Openly Tozama gave reassurances, promises of vengeance; secretly, shared only with his closest advisors, he was pleased at the weakening of a temporary ally who would be eliminated at the end of their usefulness.
Tozama-Tenno rose from his throne and stood before his kneeling spymaster and naval commander. Saito had analyzed data and determined that the Republic and her allies possessed a new, much faster stardrive, estimated to be capable of over five hundred times the equivalent of lightspeed. Years before, he had informed his Emperor of the Helium-3 reactors and torches, which were not being kept secret; these were being implemented throughout the Imperial fleet where practical, but Saito's spies had not heard so much as a rumor of this new hyperdrive. Saito, ashamed of this failure, did not visibly cringe before his Emperor... who, it turned out, was in a forgiving mood.
"A worthy opponent," Tozama declared, while the last image his gunships had recorded of Aurora floated in the air before him.
"At last."
Continued in the next excerpt....
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