Excerpts from the Jeffersonian Republic project:
Aurora, Part CXXIV: Souls for Threads, Stars for a Loom

This page Copyright 2020, Karl Leffler

Continued from the previous excerpt
26 Secondmonth 573JR
16 September 2367CE

Maet and the Allied fleet retreated to the outer system.
Security cameras from private buildings, traffic and weather cameras for the city, personal cameras in vehicles and on clothing, transmitted the horrors of invasion and conquest to the universe. The fleet received video of the atrocities being committed against the people of Oskran, before the invaders began destroying satellites and Marsten Devices in orbit.
Garch was invading Hewnak. The people of the Federation resisted, some with fabbed Jeffersonian weapons, but there had not been time to distribute these widely. Narloof mobilized to defend her ally and was struck down from orbit and from the air.
Flike were ravaging Lii, looting, eating. Refugees in tens of thousands streamed out of Arriod and the other cities of the Confederation to scatter in the countryside, many of them to starve, and to freeze as local winter approached. Smaller bands of Flike occasionally raided these caravans.
Shame swept the ranks of the Jeffersonian Republic Navy. A frigate built and crewed by the Alran of Lii Transitioned back for a suicide run against the orbiting cryoliners. It was destroyed seconds after exiting hyperspace. A second, and a third, attempted the same and met the same end.
Maet addressed the fleet... as Robert E. Lee had spoken to the Army of Northern Virginia after Gettysburg. "Responsibility for this defeat lies solely with me," he told his spacers and Marines with a breaking voice. "None of you have failed. I can only promise you that I am working even now to liberate our fellow Jeffersonians, and to bring vengeance upon our enemies.
"Our opportunity to strike may come at any time. I will need you all. Do not throw away your precious lives in futile gestures doomed to yet more failure. Only together will we be able to free, or to avenge, your brothers and sisters, your parents and children.
"We shall return. Upon my life and my soul I vow this to you."

Yamato had taken multiple Class Twenty Marsten Gun hits, but she'd been lucky; none of the relativistic antiship slugs had touched her, and she had lost only one of her six enormous fusion torches. Three of her own twelve Class Twenty Guns had been disabled, but her crew managed to get one back into action. Her spinal Class Thirty-Two remained operational.
New Texas was an old ship, nearly half Aurora's age, but the people of New Texas had always donated enough grams and kilograms to keep her updated. She too had lost one of her four torches and two of her ten Class Eighteen Guns. Onboard fabbers were expected to have function restored to all of these within another hundred hours.
Oregon and Washington were in worse shape. Newer ships, they had been built with the modern trend of less armor, and had suffered for it. Near-sisters, they each carried four torches and ten Class Twenty Guns. Neither had more than half of either serviceable. Washington was being stripped of useful parts to repair Oregon. A skeleton crew, all walking-wounded, would remain aboard Washington, while the rest of her survivors would replace losses on Oregon, as would some recovered from Virginia. More wounded were transferred to Washington for evacuation; she couldn't fight anymore and would retreat.
The surviving carriers, Shinano and Constellation, would not be risked in the next engagement; in a fleet battle at fractions of lightspeed they were little more than expensive targets. They would remain hidden in the depths of the system, to be brought in with their fighters and bombers for close support of surface troops, after naval superiority had been reestablished.
If that wasn't wishful thinking.
The Lii-built light cruiser Gela, Uary's sister ship, had survived, along with fourteen other cruisers of five different classes. One, Lanark, was Caledonian. Many were damaged. Twenty-one of the Shrakor class frigates were present - less than half from the start of the battle. Twenty-nine destroyers, about a third the oversized Jeffersonian Maerca class, were also here; as were thirty-seven Reserve Privateers, but of those only six, the antiques of the Confederate Air Force, were real fighting ships, and none of those were above five kilotons or a Class Five Gun.
The Allies were still badly outnumbered. Looking at recordings, the enemy had lost none of their thirty battleships, though at least seven had been damaged, some heavily. Of ninety-seven cruisers, four had been destroyed and as many as twenty damaged. At least eighty percent of their hundred-fifty-two destroyers remained operational. Two enemy carriers were above Oskran, their combat aerospacecraft controlling the planet's skies; the carriers were orbiting right at the hyper Limit so they could escape quickly if necessary. The cryoliners were near these, the fusion torches of the smaller craft making the two-light-second trip in a few hours instead of the days NASA required for the Apollo missions. Enemy tankers were in lower orbits, well within the Limit, to refuel these landers and fighters after their long burns; evidently the enemy thought the tankers worth risking.
Maet knew Jeffersonian and Allied reinforcements were on the way. He was not sure how many, or when... but he knew what to do with them, because just before it all went wrong, Unatt had found something important.

Tozama Daiki was happy.
Today his naval forces had swept away those of the most powerful nation in the history of the explored galaxy. The mighty Jeffersonian Republic Navy broke and ran before him, leaving behind the expanding wreckage of some of their most famous and powerful ships.
His alien cannon-fodder had forced landings in a Member State of the Republic itself. Not since the Republic-Empire War, a hundred and fifty-nine Terran years before, had Republic soil felt the tread of an invader's boot. Even their vaunted Marine Corps fell like wheat before his imperial scythe.
Today his wolves of space, the uchuu-no-okami, were feasting, and he was the alpha of his pack. Today he fed his own addiction, his one admitted weakness: the thrill, the pleasure of killing armed beings face to face and hand to hand.
His power-armor was painted black and red, the colors of his Empire, and styled like that worn by the ancient samurai of the glorious Sengoku Jidai. Impervious to most small arms, he waded into the Lii Confederation militias and ever-fewer surviving Marines in the heart of Arriod, his murdered father's Mitsuhira katana cleaving flesh and bone and body armor and even rifle barrels with its centuries-old, unbreakable, molecular-edged blade. Beneath the demon's mask of his helmet he smiled, as the blood of his victims painted his armor.
The Alran people of the planet Oskran were not Human, but they were shaped much like Humans, and they fought like Humans. Their blood was a slightly different shade of red, their skeletons and organs were evidently different, but they were close enough to count as good training for the battles and conquests to come, against the civilized nations of the galaxy. They were similar in other ways too, and some of his wolves took some of their females alive for entertainment. Perhaps he would try one himself, later.
Here in the city of Arriod the pickings were rich, with homes and businesses, families and workers, wealth of every kind. Children were being gathered as slaves, to work fields and fabberies for his Empire... but with some caution. Worthy of his own race's past, some as young as eight Terran years carried explosives.
On the planet Shreegok, and some others, Tozama had sought out the national or planetary leadership. If they had the courage to face him, he took that as proof that the people who placed those leaders in power did not allow cowards to rule them, and his Empire was more lenient to his new subjects. The Triumvirate of the Lii Confederation, however, was notably absent; and so he let his wolves run wild.
His allies, too, indulged themselves. The Flike had taken heavy casualties in the initial landings... but that was what they were for. At least a hundred thousand were on the surface now, some eighty thousand here in Lii, the rest in the smaller, less-challenging Federation of Hewnak. He had sent advisors with the latter, to prevent friendly-fire with his allies, the kingdom of Garch. Flike in battle were little better than animals, and the colors and styles of uniforms might go unnoticed in the thrill of their hunts.
The Nikar exiles, not quite two hundred of them, were here with him in Lii. They were more controllable than the Flike, but that wasn't saying much. He had hoped for greater involvement from the reptilians, more cannon fodder to preserve his own forces, but despite his machinations the attempted coup on Gnop had failed, and the Nikar people were at war mainly with themselves. So be it; he intended to eliminate them from his galaxy in time anyway. Let them begin the work of their own extermination.
The Glaut, too, he had plans to remove from the universe, but they were proving more useful in the present. He had to admit their atmospheric pilots were excellent, with their liquid-filled cockpits and chemical enhancements; they outmaneuvered real Republic fighter pilots, Siv and Humans and Eyani and Alran, and now provided precise close support for the ground troops. Glautak pilots also brought those troops down in their assault landers, loading loot and slaves for their return flights.
There were Glauteb here too, slaves of the Glautak. After recent events, not least Rntggld, Glauteb were not trusted with weapons despite their indoctrination; they were implanted with pain-inducing devices and used for labor, sorting Alran slaves and the bounties of their world. Tozama had read reports that the Consolidation had begun another round of genocides against their lower caste. Perhaps this time they would eliminate them completely, replacing their functions with robots.
Yes, the Emperor of Space was happy.
This is the way things should be.

A few more ships had trickled in, a handful of surviving frigates and destroyers, Reserve Privateers who had been working the outer system when the GFA fleet struck- but still not enough. Maet hovered in Yamato's CIC, glaring at every screen in turn, flapping his vestigial wings to keep position in freefall.
A new batch of contacts appeared, at the edge of detection. A Human rating had been attempting to track them, but after the full-spectrum burst of their Transition there had been no emissions which could reach them faster than lightspeed. Then another rating, an Eyani, clutched his headset to his swiveling ear and announced, "Sir! Incoming Marsten transmission, probable source Contact 1438... IFF, they're ours!"
"Let me hear it," Admiral Maet ordered.
"Captain Solomon Danner and JRS Aurora, with Atlanta, FGAS Vengeance, four destroyers and two tankers. Where do you need us?"
"Danner! By the First Egg, you live!"
"Admiral Maet. Permission to join the order of battle, sir."
"Come aboard Yamato and join our war council. I have much need of you."

Aurora's group from Sidonia made a Short Transit to close the distance with the remaining Allied fleet, then extended a docking tube to her grand-niece, the cruiser herself dwarfed by the larger ship for a change. Maet met Danner at the 'lock, with one hand in his and the other on the Human's shoulder.
Maet looked bad. It was obvious he hadn't rested, pheathers in disarray, eyes red and sunken, his usually-polished beak dulled. Danner's face showed concern. "You're the best news I've had all day," Maet told him. "I'm brevetting you Commodore, I want you to organize and lead a destroyer squadron. After Adda and Illyria I can't think of anyone who can make better use of them. Perhaps you can pull another nubba out of your hat for us."
Aurora's gynoid accompanied Danner and Maet to Yamato's flag deck. Admiral Brttlb of the Free Glaut Armada appeared at another hatch, having taken a shuttle across from Vengeance, which was now under emergency repair. Several other officers were present, captains of the surviving capital ships, and Maet's staff.
Maet summarized the situation. "With our current forces... mutual annihilation. At best. We still don't know what forces the enemy have in reserve, but I know ours. This is... was the largest concentration of Jeffersonian or Allied ships in over two hundred Republic years. It would take months, even with the Blain Drive, to duplicate this effort... and nearly a quarter of our most powerful units are already here... those that have survived. If they are lost, it would take years to replace them, while there would be little remaining to stop the enemy from thrusting deeper into our territory, seizing more resources and denying their use to us.
"I expect our allies are sending reinforcements, but I don't know how many, what kind, or when. If they arrive piecemeal, we would be defeated in detail. If we wait for a larger concentration, the enemy may bring even more force of their own, more than we will be able to overcome. Meanwhile their other fleets may continue invading our other worlds, with nothing in their way.
"If we can't stop them here, the Republic herself could fall."
Aurora's gynoid had been transmitting the strategy meeting to her Family aboard Aurora. Suddenly, her artificial eyes lit, projecting a holographic image of her ship-brother, Daisuke Taniyama, who announced: "I may have a way to delay the enemy, or disrupt their plans."
Maet turned to the hologram, ignoring the breach of protocol. He knew any member of Solomon Danner's Family would not interrupt without good cause. "How so?"
"Reports from the surface indicate Tozama Daiki himself has landed, personally leading the invasion forces."
"Yes," Maet confirmed, "but we are never sure exactly where, except that he is among our own civilian populations. We cannot use a high-energy strike to eliminate him, and the enemy has already established anti-relativistic defenses of their own in any case."
"I believe I can appeal to him personally, Admiral."
"Personally?" Maet was puzzled.
"If I am right... I shall make him an offer he cannot refuse."
Daisuke declined to explain his plan in greater detail, but his Captain asked, one time, "Are you sure?" Not of the information, or of his plan- but of himself.
Daisuke answered simply, "Yes."
Maet saw there was something here he did not know, but Solomon Danner had earned his trust, and that trust extended to any member of his crew. The Siv Admiral asked the Human Captain, "Are you sure?"
"I am. I request a communication channel be provided to my Purser for the purpose of contacting the enemy commander."
Maet paused for just a moment, then turned to Unatt. She nodded without a word, and sent a frequency and code to Aurora. "Very well," Maet said, "but not yet. We may have no choice but to engage the enemy in battle. I want you, Solomon, to help me with those plans first."

Neither Solomon nor Daisuke would rush in blindly. There would be a backup plan, however desperate. Solomon spent the next few days obeying Admiral Maet's orders, to organize Destroyer Squadron Twelve - nineteen ships, their crews and captains the best-trained or most-experienced he could find. They would be Maet's quick-reaction force, an astronomical cavalry troop to plug gaps or exploit breakthroughs, should such opportunities arise. After Aurora's single actions at Mark's World and Adda, and Danner's fleet commands in the Illyrian Civil War, none questioned his suddenly-granted authority. He was one of the most-experienced combat naval commanders alive.
Days passed, as handfuls of additional ships arrived - still insufficient to drive the enemy from Oskran, even as repairs progressed on the ships already there, but the suffering of the Alran people weighed on everyone. Finally, with news of reinforcements approaching, the dice had to be rolled. Maet ordered Solomon and Daisuke to execute their own plan.
Aurora Transitioned to within a few light-minutes of Oskran. As quickly as possible, she recharged the Initiator of her Marsten/Blain Drive, preparing to escape if necessary. As her Field rebuilt the strength necessary to Transition, she transmitted to the orbiting carriers and cryoliners of the enemy, by Marsten Device:
"Brevet-Commodore Solomon Danner of the Jeffersonian Republic Navy, commanding JRS Aurora, requests communication with Tozama Daiki, who claims to be the Emperor of Space."

Days had passed.
In the Triumvirate Redoubt, deep in the planet's bedrock, video came down from the surface through Oskran's planetary Net. Councilor Nalat Yonn's face grew hard. He drew, checked, and reholstered the M437 plasma pistol he had bought in a Monticello arms shop so many years ago, and the M12 midsword gifted to him by the captain of JRS Meriwether Lewis years before that. He then turned his gaze on the Lii Confederation Executive Guard, and those hardened soldiers... averted their eyes.
All but one, whose son had died in Kale Unti's squad of Mobile Infantry. That one turned to the bunker's meter-thick hatch, opened its massive lock, and threw his weight against it.
In a moment, his fellow Guards joined him.

The Triumvirate Redoubt had many attached facilities; power plant, cryopantry, fabbery... armory. Nalat Yonn had outfitted himself in full infantry kit, with a MkLX plasma rifle and a basic load of power cells, body armor, grenades, and the like. So had the Executive Guard. They had numbered a platoon, to protect the Triumvirate. A squad's worth had departed with Yonn. His fellow Councilors, Borda and Igpag, chose not to join him, and the remainder of the Guard stayed with them.
Emerging on the surface, in wilderness over a thousand kilometers from Arriod, they found... a normal day. Sun and clouds, rain in the distance, autumn leaves falling, birds migrating.
Yonn was vaguely offended, that his world should keep turning under such violation. There should be storms, lightning, driving rain, to match the content of his soul.
Then he saw the fiery streaks of a wave of spacecraft entering the atmosphere, and he knew what he had to do.
There was a camouflaged motorpool at the surface, with ground and air vehicles, and orbit-capable shuttles. The latter were suicide, with the enemy controlling orbit. Many of the Executive Guard were pilots. The best of them selected a transport aircraft which could barely seat them all. It was lightly built and subsonic; less likely to be detected by the enemy. It had just enough range to return to Arriod, in about three hours.
More news of the invasion was received and studied during the flight, by laser link from satellites the enemy had not yet destroyed. Yonn and his Guards grew cold and hard at the horrors they viewed, and made their plans for vengeance. Mostly, those plans were suicidal, to take as many Flike predators with them as possible... but Yonn had a better idea.
As Senior Councilor of the Triumvirate of a Member State of the Jeffersonian Republic, he had access to secret information, such as the Asgardian-and-allied database on piracy. He had spent much time studying the enemies now ravaging his world... the creatures responsible for the death of his beloved niece... and the creature responsible, in theory, for launching this war:
Tozama Daiki.
Many reports were unconfirmed, but some suggested this self-styled "emperor" had a twisted code of honor, to which he adhered... and which Nalat Yonn might use to the advantage of his world and his people.

The flight had been stressful, the pilot following terrain as closely as he dared. Two of the Executive Guard became airsick, and that triggered three more. As they approached Arriod, they had seen a pair of Jeffersonian fighters make a ground-attack run. They disappeared behind a ridge, there were surface explosions illuminating clouds, to the vengeful snarls of the Guard and Nalat himself; they reappeared, one trailing smoke, then laser pulses from orbit smashed them both into fiery wreckage.
Yonn was seated directly behind the pilot. "Get as close as possible," he ordered. Time and distance would work against his plan.
It was early afternoon when the pilot selected a clearing on the northern outskirts of Arriod. This aircraft, of local manufacture, did not have Jeffersonian power systems, nor was it equipped for vertical landing. With the last of the fuel, the pilot chose to belly-land in a grain field across a river from a crel orchard. In the distance Yonn could see the ziggurat atop which he had spent a pleasant evening conversing with Solomon Danner, Aurora, their Family... and Nrii Tlam.
The aged farmer who owned the field approached openly; the enemy was unlikely to be using a Lii-built aircraft, but still he had an old Lii-built repeating rifle in his hands, cartridge pouches circling his waist. As the Guards began exiting the aircraft, he named himself, "Yack Torin, Master Sergeant Retired, Confederation Army. What's happenin'?"
Then Councilor Yonn appeared and said, "I've come to fight. Can you lend us transport?"
Torin spat out the stalk of norka he had been chewing. "Boat. This way." Then, moving faster than a man of his years ought, he set off to a riverside dock.
"Just big enough for y'all," Torin said, as he started the engine and began casting off. One of the Guards made to take the controls. "Nuh-uh," Torin said. "I want a piece of 'em too." The Guard nodded grimly and took a seat aft.
"How is your family, Mr. Torin?" Yonn asked, as the old soldier smoothly eased the boat away from the dock.
"Wife's passed," Torin answered, "long time ago. Cancer. Right before Contact. Kids 'n grandkids, they got the Cure, thanks to you, Councilor. That speech you gave Congress. Some of 'em up there, fightin'." He waved a hand at the sky, at the Jeffersonian Navy. "Some of 'em over there, fightin'." He waved downstream, toward Arriod.
"I'm sorry about the damage to your field," Yonn said.
"Well, Councilor, I'll make you a deal. We get outta this alive, we get those scum off our world, I'll make a museum of that skidmark and charge admission and we'll call it even."

It was another hour to reach Arriod's city limits. Smoke clouded the sky above the city. Weapons could be heard firing, explosions... screams.
Yonn's squad encountered a like number of Flike, feasting on Alran children outside a burning school.
It took some time for Yonn to stop the Guards from mutilating the Flike corpses with their bayonets.
It took some time for him to stop himself.
The Executive Guard were not the equal of Jeffersonian SEALs, but they came close. Many were competent with technology. The squad's computers, ganged together and equipped with recent intelligence data, had enough power to break encryption on the Flike squad leader's device. Now Yonn had access to the invaders' communications net. To it, he announced:
"Nalat Yonn, First Triumvir of the Lii Confederation, challenges Tozama Daiki to single combat, for the fate of this world."
Continued in the next excerpt....
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