Shepherd Moon, Chapter 24: From the Far Side of the Sun
“This is Reena, shieldmaiden of the Royal Elyran Flagship, Talon, battleship of the Earth’s Fifth Fleet. I am calling in behalf of EarthForce. Greetings to all of Colossus and the Galactic Federation of Free Races, and request permission to approach.”
“This is Colossus Control to Talon. T’Chahn, shieldmaiden. From all of Colossus, welcome to the Zeos system. But our detection systems do not see you yet. Are you ship-maneuverable?”
“I am aware of that, Colossus. We are still about fifty Earth hours out, I mean sixty-two! You are receiving my signal real-time via a radio relay from the Earth Embassy. Please inform the Lady Tasha of our impending arrival.”
“We understand, Lady Reena. We shall be contacting the princess shortly.”
“Thank you Colossus. Reena of the Talon signing off.”
The arrival of Talon and the other ships wasn’t going to be met with the same pomp and pageantry that the Shepherd Moon and her six ships received. Many assumed this was due to the machinations of Councilor Cor, who was rapidly becoming one of the Earthers “favorite” people, but that didn’t stop the Fifth Fleet from doing its own reception ceremony.
Through Tasha, they were able to secure permission to use an ancient landing field in the long-abandoned Zeos Three, the only habitable planet in the Zeos System.
Of course, there were no running electronics and other systems in the abandoned spaceport. It had remained unmaintained and unused for several thousand millennia, after all, as were the rest of the structures on the planet. In fact, the structures on the planet only survived because of the unvarying weather and nearly-constant below-32 degree Fahrenheit temperature of the planet – an effect of its near-circular orbit around its primary and its tidal locked synchronous rotation, and the absolute absence of any volcanic or tectonic activity. For the Federation, the planet was a useless and inhospitable planet, and remained abandoned and untouched after the giant Colossus station was commissioned.
DSC Mikasa, the Fifth Fleet’s newest ship, boasted the most advanced electronic systems amongst all the seven Fifth Fleet Earth ships. She had therefore landed at the edge of the ancient landing field and was used as a temporary spaceport tower, beacon and ILS system. She was actually the first ship to ever enter the planet’s atmosphere and actually land in a very, very long time.
DSC Kirov, the one that was designated as the Fifth Fleet’s de-facto cargo ship, carried the least number of shuttles and fighters in order to maximize deck space. Like the Mikasa, she also landed, and was used to provide temporary facilities where an authentic Elyran, Dixx, Arachnian, Earther and Telcontari welcome meal would be served.
The crews of both ships had spread out and, using portable heaters, started melting the excess ice off the tarmac to prepare for the arrival of twelve more ships. They had to do it slowly so that they wouldn’t have explosive melting or crack the tarmac. Their tiny efforts didn’t melt the permafrost under the ground, but that was good since all they needed was to just clear the surface.
The five Elyran and Dixx cruisers, escorted by the Fourth Fleet’s cruisers Gibraltar and Windsor, finally entered Colossus’ area of responsibility. It was met by several traffic control shuttles from Colossus traffic control instead of the big Dravidian warships that met the Shepherd Moon. But that was fine. As soon as the ships entered Colossus’ traffic pattern and after a fly-over inspection of the shuttles, the Shepherd Moon, Constellation, Hermes, the Bismark and the Victoria met them and escorted them to Zeos Three. Those onboard Colossus that couldn’t get to the monitors crowded around all the available transparent ports so that they could see the ships as they passed. As the Federation ships passed near Colossus, many could see that they had gone through a lot: large areas of their hull were replaced with new plating, and there were lots of dinged and scorched sections. Many commented that what happened in Earth System probably was as bad as was reported.
After all the ships had landed on the de-iced landing field, there was yet another ceremony on the ground, what the Earthers called formal guard mounts, but much modified and abbreviated in consideration of the ambient temperature and the unfamiliarity of their Federation comrades with Earth protocols.
There were a few guests that had asked if they might attend, and these were the Telcontari, Kembels, Daemons, people from Star 453-A, and some others. Most surprisingly, people from the Erocii Mission had also asked to come. With the Elyran, Dixx and Arachnians, their visitors represented the most powerful and influential races in the Federation, with the exception of the Dravidians.
Subtle questions circulated, but Mia had briefed her people really well so she was fairly confident that no one would commit any gaffes. In the end, everyone to enjoy the “welcome dinner.”
Mia had required all of her senior staff to circulate, and make sure everyone got to have some face time with the leaders of the Fifth Fleet. That included Reena and Areeya – the commanders of “her” two Elyran crews, and Tolar, Rexx and Ehlar from her three Dixx crews. Mia was pleasantly surprised that the first thing her alien commanders did upon landing was to report to her. The esprit-de-corps was at an all-time high.
At the end of the day, when everyone had returned to Colossus (except for several curious Telcontari), her twelve commanders reported to her, Daxx, Tasha and the First Ambassador. She told them how pleased she was, and had brought up the idea that perhaps Daxx and Tasha’s people could already be tired of the company of provincial Earthers. Everyone smiled but Captain Tolar laughed out loud. Reena inconspicuously hit the tall Dixx captain in her side with her elbow, and Tolar let out a small, aristocratic “ooof!”
“I apologize, My Lady,” Reena said. “What the Captain meant was that we are far from being tired of our Earther comrades. Rather we are very pleased to be in the company of the doughty and gallant warriors of Earth. But we shall comply if Admiral Steele would rather terminate our affiliation with the Fifth Fleet, with the concurrence of Lady Tasha, of course.”
Mia smiled in delight, approached Reena and put her hands on her shoulder. “No, my dear,” she said. “I would not.”
Reena blushed at the touch and at her words. She felt oddly proud and humbled at the same time. “I will follow the Lady Amelia to Hell and back…” she thought.
“It is settled, then,” Tasha said. “The Talon and Blazing Star shall remain with the Fifth Fleet until further notice. Admiral Daxx?”
“Indeed,” Daxx replied. “The Flying Cloud, Crimson Sun and The Protector will likewise remain with the Fifth Fleet… with the concurrence of the Ambassador and Lady Amelia, of course.”
“But what would your homeworlds say?” Mia said.
“We have full authority to do this, My Lady,” Daxx said. “Worry not.”
“Indeed,” the First Ambassador said. “In fact, I have gotten instructions from the homeworld…”
“How did you get word from…”
The little Arachnian shrugged his upper shoulders at the Dixx admiral. “As usual, it was relayed to us by the Shepherd Moon…”
“So what did they say?”
“The hive masters were dismayed to find out that both of the ships that Arachnia sent perished in the Battle of Pluto. Our people have been so incensed that they petitioned our leaders that we Arachnians must participate more fully. Our leaders have commanded that one of our two cruisers presently assigned to the Colossus squadron be transferred to the Fifth Fleet as well. I have been instructed to inform Colossus Command of this, and that we convey this request to the Secretary-General, to Admiral Silverman to Admiral Daxx, and to Lady Amelia.
“We believe we can offer a distinct advantage to the Fifth Fleet, in that our ships move more quickly than other Federation vessels. Our Arachnian constitutions are more resistant to the effects of acceleration and deceleration so Arachnian cruisers are ship-maneuverable at higher velocities, and can fly faster and are more maneuverable in-system than any other vessels in the Federation.”
“There is no need to wait, Ambassador,” Mia said. “EarthForce accepts your offer, with thanks.”
All the other captains murmured their thanks and congratulations as well.
Captain Tolar bowed. “Your countrymen will be truly welcome, Ambassador.”
The Arachnian bowed as well. “My thanks, Captain Tolar.”
“I hope you don’t mind, Ambassador,” Captain Dupont said, “what is the name of the ship?”
The Arachnian made the gesture for apology. “I am afraid we are not as lucky as you. Arachnian ships are like Erocii ships in that we do not give our ships poetic, meaningful names. Our ships are just referred to by a number. We have been assigned Arachnian cruiser one hundred forty-three, but in Base-10, that would be Cruiser ninety-nine.” (Transposing the number was unnecessary because of the translator, but he still did it, out of an unconscious impulse. Most people seemed to do that, it seems.)
“Well,” Okonkwo said, “… ninety-nine. Admiral? Is there another ship designated ninety-nine?”
“None yet,” Mia answered. “I’ll tell Admiral Silverman. In fact, perhaps the other ships should be given their own hull numbers. What do you think?”
The group had responded positively to this. Before they departed for their individual ships, they made arrangements for the departure of the Fifth Fleet for Elyra. Cruiser 99 would join the fleet shortly, as soon as it had topped up its supplies.
Acquiring consumables from suppliers based in Colossus was a worry for Cruiser 99. She had been on duty around Colossus for a time already, and her supplies were already half gone. And knowing that they would need to top up supplies, they were fairly sure that the suppliers would be gouging them in terms of price. Not that the Arachnians wouldn’t be able to afford it, but it would definitely eat into the Arachnian Mission’s funds.
Kapitan Tereshkova made a suggestion, however – that they be the ones to resupply Cruiser 99, as well as all the other Fifth Fleet ships instead.
So, with the help of the Kirov and Mikasa’s equipment, the Earthers were able to use water sourced from the surface snow and ice of Zeos Three, purify it to get pure water as well as electrolyze it to get hydrogen and oxygen, and topped up Cruiser 99. And since there was hydrogen, oxygen and water to spare, they decided to top up everyone’s supplies. As for carbohydrate, yeast and protein supplies - using minerals and water, as well as salvaged tankages from the ancient equipment on the planet’s surface, Kirov’s crew were able to force-produce enough to supply all the ships with organic consumables as well - even though Earth’s allies weren’t used to wheat-based cellulose or soy-based vegetable protein, they were close enough to what they were familiar with and could make do. And with yeast, carbohydrate and protein bases, they could synthesize most of their basic foodstuffs. The food might not be fancy, but the supplies could allow their crews to last for a long, long while.
These efforts of the Kirov and Mikasa therefore allowed the new 13-ship fleet to be completely resupplied without spending one cent (or crown, rather).
Their Telcontari visitors, curious like children, were running around looking at what everyone was doing. The cold didn’t seem to bother them much, which reinforced the impression of little polar bear cubs, and they were looking into everything that the Earthers were doing.
They were very polite, however, asking permission first before approaching and observing, and they weren’t touching anything, or overly buttonholing people or actually getting in the way. They were curious, though, to know if all the ships from Earth were as well equipped.
Chief Engineer Amazova of the Kirov didn’t understand the question though, since they were just using slap-dash makeshift equipment.
The Telcontari looked at each other, squeaking and growling at each other in surprise and consternation. One of them asked if they were taking apprentices, but the chief, chuckling, had to say no – the Fifth Fleet was a military fleet, after all, and were on their way to war.
The Telcontari also asked about the so-called “Earth Alliance,” but the chief explained that no such alliance had officially been declared. It was just that Earth, Elyra, Dixx and Arachnia had grown close, and found it convenient to work with each other.
They asked a little bit about the commerce and trade alliances that the “friends” had made, but the chief said that they weren’t really “alliances” so much as conveniences that their governments had arranged to keep red tape at a minimum. (She then had to explain what she meant by “red tape.”)
The little Telcontari who asked, apologized for the question, and moved on to watch another group of Earthers who were loading Arachnian pressure containers onto some tractors. They had just finished filling up the containers with pure liquid H2O and were about to move it over to Cruiser 99.
The other Telcontari had asked the same sort of things, and the officers, commanders and leaders said much the same things, although the rest of their crew practically confirmed the alliance. To the Telcontari, this only confirmed the view of the Federation – that the “alliance” that most expected and some feared was a de-facto reality, even if it wasn’t official.
They had also asked about the technology that the “alliance” was using, and they found that most of the Earther technologies were known in the Federation, though the Earthers’ approach seemed more refined and advanced. For example, they made more use of very expensive integrated circuits, microprocessors and helium-bubble systems, and it was a generally accepted thing that Earther equipment were generally the best. However, it was very frustrating that they weren’t able to get any kind of information about Phase-Wave and the other magical technology that everyone had heard about.
Eventually, the Telcontari said thanks and made their farewells (they were the last of the Federation visitors to depart), and everyone watched their rocket blast off into outer space.
On the thirty-minute trip back to Colossus, the Telcontari twittered, squeaked, chirped and growled to each other as they compared notes.
They were disappointed that they were unable to unearth any information about Phase-Wave, but they did establish that the Elyrans, Dixx and Arachnians were actually clueless about Phase-Wave, too. But besides Phase-Wave and a handful of other things, the Earthers had no fundamental advantage in technology in that what they knew and had were technologies that the Federation was familiar with. What made Earther technology better was that they'd pushed them to unprecedented levels of miniaturization, production and excellence. But though the Federation could produce the same, the cost and resources required would be enormous. The Earthers must have access to unheard of resources and a level of industrialization that perhaps equaled the Dravidians.
Among all the Federation, it was only the Telcontari that had the cheek to ask – how did the Earthers become so fluent in Elyran, and so knowledgeable with the Federation and its laws and customs? Though they kept seeing the in-ear devices and the little electronic buttons pinned to their collars that translated for them, many seemed fluent enough to converse freely in Elyran without electronic aids. However, the Telcontari was as unsuccessful and the Earthers never really answered the questions.
It wasn’t that they were avoiding answering them. They just thought that the question was not exactly a big deal. The Earther crews said that they were just well briefed and trained.
The Earthers had high esprit de corps, and said they had full confidence in Admiral Steele to steer them in the right direction. As for the Elyrans, Dixx and Arachnian crews, they assumed that the Earthers were just quick studies. They were largely basing their opinions on the interactions they had with the few Earther crewmembers that they had the good fortune of interacting with, and how fast they picked up on things. But mostly, they based this opinion on their perception of the Lady Amelia, and just assumed that all the Earthers were as capable.
The only thing that the Telcontari could conclude was that the Earthers were unprecedented linguists and sociologists. And that their leader, Lady Amelia, was a very capable leader.
Those that they'd talked with felt that the Lady Amelia was very gracious, very friendly, very competent and very, very smart, and she was held in high esteem. But for the Elyrans, their feelings were more than that - it amounted to something akin to hero worship bordering on fanaticism.
The similarities between Elyrans and Earthers were such that their ideas of aesthetics and beauty seemed almost parallel. The Earthers thought of the Elyrans as universally physically attractive, but to the Elyrans, the Earthers were something that they had not seen the like of before. Most of them were physically very attractive to the Elyrans as well, but they also exuded a kind of telempathic aura that made them extremely sexually attractive.
The Telcontari had surmised that this had something to do with the so-called Elyran “bridge effect” that they had heard rumors of. And if to the Earthers, the Lady Amelia was physically beautiful, to the Elyrans, she was more like a goddess.
The Telcontari wondered how it would be if they got to work with her onboard the Shepherd Moon, and chittered happily at the prospect.
Blind Spot –
After the Telcontari had left, and while the top-up operations were ongoing, Mia took the opportunity to go back to her quarters on the Shepherd Moon and have a rest. The work would probably take about twenty more hours, and then maybe a shift to rest, so that would give her thirty to forty-eight hours to rest and recuperate a bit. She nodded to the two Marines outside the door, and told them to take the night off. No one would be bothering her tonight so she said it was okay.
Going inside and closing the door, she sighed, took off her belt with the sidearm and sword, and then took off her dress uniform. She had two dress uniforms, and she had given both of them a workout these past days. Maybe she needed a couple more. She made a mental note to contact the quartermaster’s later.
Underneath, she had worn her skintight blue pressure suit, which was great for protecting against the zero-degree centigrade temperatures outside. She unzipped it and ran it through the suit cleaning unit. It was a very fast process since it just involved dunking the suit in a cleaning solvent solution, rinsing it quickly in water and then drying it. The process wouldn’t have worked with other clothes since it would have dissolved them completely. It was only meant for pressure suits.
In a minute, it was clean and dry. Mia hung it in her clothes closet and then stepped into the shower. For the past week, she had been wearing the suit under her uniform almost twenty-four/seven. Many of her people had followed her lead and did the same. It was a reflection of the Earthers’ uneasiness at not being in Earther territory, but more because they knew some of the Federation representatives were not exactly friendly to them and their cause.
Since the ship’s water supply was being topped off, Mia decided it was okay to take a long water shower and spent almost half an hour luxuriating in the hot water.
Stepping out of the bath, she rubbed her now-platinum-blonde locks dry.
The doctors in Bethesda had warned her that the balance of eumelanin and pheomelanin in her cloned hair follicles might not be perfect and might yield lighter-colored hair, especially as it grew out and was exposed to more light in time, but she didn’t mind that. What she did mind, though, was that her hair was now down to the middle of her back. She hadn’t gone to the ship-board barbers’ shop yet (it was a unisex service) since she left Bethesda. She still felt a little shy about it, but she noticed the ends of her hair were looking a little frayed. “What a time to worry about split ends,” she thought and giggled. To her, such worries felt very girl-like, and she kidded herself that she was adjusting well to her new gender.
But she was a little worried that her behavior might still be too much like the old her, and the others might be getting the wrong cues. She had thought that she had adjusted her behavior sufficiently, but maybe she needed to change her behavior even more. She had already tried to tone down her physical expressions of emotion, especially with the men, since she knew they might misconstrue such physicality. If he was still the old Bill, and if a girl behaved to the old Bill the way she did now, the old Bill might think she was being a bitch or, worse, being flirty. One of her “theories” was, since females were supposed to be more expressive, she was free to be more expressive now, but apparently her physical behavior was still too masculine. It was not to say that she didn’t walk, move or make gestures more femininely and speak with more feminine inflexions (she had taken to heart the lessons the people at Bethesda had given her), but she would revert to her old ways during high emotions. She was doing her best, but she was afraid this might the best she would ever be. She sighed.
She looked at herself in the mirror and shook her head. “If only my brain matched the rest of me,” she thought. At least she was used to her new physical self now. Although she still got a little bit of a thing for the girl in the mirror, at least it wasn’t as bad as before.
She sighed again. She felt lonely. She knew that being in command would always be a little lonely since she had to maintain some distance with those she commanded. But she didn’t anticipate the pressure of having to be the one to always be responsible, and the one to make the decisions all the time. She supposed people like Allie Romarkin and Admiral Silverman felt these things, too, but the main difference was that they were on Earth, the Admiral had Allison and Tara, Allie was surrounded by friends, and they didn’t need to contend with any change as fundamental as the one she went through. Out here, all the friends she had were also people that she was responsible for, and she couldn’t really be close to them.
At the moment, the ones that she felt closest to that she wasn’t responsible for were aliens. In fact, if asked, she would probably say that her best friend now was the First Ambassador, her first Arachnian friend. And if she was being brutally honest with herself, she had a growing infatuation with Tasha. She was one of the most incredible-looking woman she had ever seen, and was the crown princess of the Elyran Empire as well. That wasn’t a bad thing, of course. She wasn’t a racist (she had to laugh at how appropriate that word was), but she needed to be close to a human. Maybe it was a genetic thing. What was bad, though, was that Tasha was married already, and even if she wasn’t, she was a goddamned princess! If ever Mia made a move, it might cause an interstellar incident. Mia thought that she might be cursed, always falling in love with unreachable, married women.
And Mia was still carrying a torch for Miriam, but that relationship was clearly an impossibility. First, Miriam was married to Marc, one of Mia’s best friends (though Mia wasn’t sure how Marc felt about her now that she wasn’t Bill anymore). And also, Miriam had told her on the day Mia said goodbye that she was completely heterosexual.
Mia could have argued that inside she was still the old William Steele, but she decided that it was best to let her go no matter that her heart felt like it was breaking.
And then there was Sahsha.
Mia and Sahsha (when Mia was still Bill) had a kind of love that was every bit as strong as Bill and Miriam’s, but it was as doomed to fail, too, although instead of an unresolvable love triangle, what was between Mia and Sahsha was more a conflict of careers, or perhaps a conflict in priorities. Sahsha was bent on following her career while Mia had a savior complex that was bent on saving the Human Race from the hordes of giant alien amazons and lizards coming their way.
But if both of them ignored these, and if ever anything really developed between them, it wouldn’t go well for Sahsha’s career. Mia knew her career was important to her. And if it really did become serious between them, it couldn’t be anything but a long-distance relationship. Mia wouldn’t expect Sahsha to abandon her career and put herself at risk by accompanying Mia (if that was even possible), and Mia wouldn’t want Sahsha to wait for her to finish her tour of duty with EarthForce, whenever that would be – at the molment, it didn't look like that would be anytime soon. No - despite their mutual attraction, Mia knew it couldn’t go further than it currently has.
But it had suddenly become complicated when Sahsha ended up getting assigned to the Shepherd.
Mia told her at the beginning of the journey that they needed to keep their distance. Sahsha agreed but she seemed to have been offended given how she had pointedly ignored Mia from then on.
Mia couldn’t help but wonder if Sahsha really understood, if it was wounded pride, or if it was her gender change that was affecting her.
She'd said she understood, so she should be a little more friendly. And almost everyone nowadays didn’t think twice about same-sex relationships. Mut maybe Sahsha was exclusively hetero.
If so, Mia thought that she was so extraordinarily unlucky to have fallen for two of the few remaining exclusively-heterosexual people in the system. “I mean, it has to be that,” she thought. “Has to be. How else can Sahsha possibly resist this?” she joked to herself and giggled as she primped in front of the mirror, posing, vamping and showing off her spectacular curves.
The sound of her doorbell interrupted her and she hurriedly put on a bathrobe and bath slippers. “Open!” she called, and her door unlocked.
“Hi, Mia,” Sahsha called as she opened Mia’s cabin door. It was Sahsha!
“Oh, hey,” Mia responded, trying to be nonchalant. “What’s up?”
“Can I come in?”
Mia gestured her to come in, and pointed to a chair. “Of course. Have a seat. Coffee? Tea?”
She shook her head. “No, nothing. I just wanted to apologize.”
Mia went to her other guest chair in front of her desk, and sat across from Sahsha.
“Well. No chit-chat? No ‘how are you?’”
Sahsha smiled wanly. “I’m sorry, Mia. I guess this has been on my mind for a while.”
“Well, okay. But apologize for what?”
“I guess for not being too… you know. For being distant. And for… for…”
“For being cold? For ignoring me?”
“Mia, don’t be like that. You did say we had to be discreet. That our relationship might make it difficult for you and your job, and me and mine.”
Mia looked away. “I didn’t mean for you not to return my calls, of for you to ignore me.”
“I made sure it didn’t affect my work, though.”
“Yes, you did,” she sighed. “But you said you understood.”
“I did. It’s just that…”
“In that case, why all this passive-aggressive crap?”
“I was mad! What else did you expect!”
“But I explained! And you said you understood!”
“Oh, shut up!” Sahsha said and started to cry.
Mia didn’t know what to do? Should she come over and comfort her? She was torn.
“Is it because I’m a girl now?” she asked in a whisper. She was scared of the answer, and she cringed.
In response, Sahsha cannonballed into her, and gave her a kiss like no other.
The little administrator reached down, undid the belt of Mia’s bathrobe, and slipped her hand inside. She caressed Mia’s sides and waist, and Mia shuddered.
“Be quiet, my love,” Sahsha said. She pulled off Mia’s robe and pulled her to Mia’s bed.
Mia found herself lying flat on her back, nude, with Sahsha straddling her and pulling off her blouse.
After Sahsha divested herself of her shoes, top and bra, she leaned down and started giving Mia butterfly kisses on her face, lips, shoulders, chest and breasts. She started massaging Mia’s breasts while giving her a French kiss. Mia’s heart felt like it was about to pound itself out of her chest.
But Sahsha was just getting started. She resumed kissing Mia’s body, slowly working her way down but keeping her hands active on her breasts.
Mia wanted to reciprocate but Sahsha wasn’t giving her the chance. Soon, Sahsha reached Mia’s waist and started caressing her vulva. Eventually, she zeroed in on Mia’s most sensitive parts and started licking around her clitoris, just underneath her clitoral hood and around her outer vaginal lips. Mia thought Sahsha was teasing her because she wasn’t touching her clitoris itself, but then when she did, Mia exploded.
Sahsha was relentless and kept her grip on Mia’s thighs as Mia bucked and writhed. Mia moaned and cried out as her orgasm raced through her while Sahsha used her tongue and lips to suck on her clitoris, relentlessly vibrating and licking, and keeping Mia vibrating on the edge of a precipice.
For Mia, the orgasms were unlike any other she'd had. Sure, she'd played around in the shower, and she’d had lovers before when she was still a man, but this was different, and so much better by several orders of magnitude.
It didn’t necessarily last longer, nor did she come harder, but it was more… satisfying. Sahsha knew how to keep her on a knife edge instead of just taking her directly to the summit and then just letting it fade away. And though the intensity wasn’t as strong as when she was still a “he,” it was so much better, so much more all-enveloping.
Mia continued to buck and Sahsha went through it with her. And as Mia’s main orgasm subsided, her contractions continued to make her buck. But that eventually faded, too, and Sahsha stopped her ministrations. She knew that Mia was about to reach that point of over-sensitivity, and didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.
When Mia had calmed down, Sahsha climbed back up, kissed Mia and hugged her like she would never go.
As one of the best doctors in the world, Mia knew that her hypothalamus was just releasing oxytocin into her bloodstream, the so-called “cuddle hormone,” but she didn’t care. She felt such love for Sahsha, and just hugged her.
Sahsha felt her pants were in the way, and despite Mia’s protests, Sahsha giggled, fended her off and took off her trousers and panties. She then hurried back to the bed. She sighed as she let Mia cuddle her from behind, spoon style, and settled in for the night, with a smile flitting around her lips.
Later on in the night, she found herself gently awakened by Mia. Mia’s hands were all over her, and all over her breasts. She didn’t know if being turned into a girl has upped Mia’s game, but she couldn’t complain. She tried to reach back to reciprocate but her position wasn’t ideal. Mia, however, was all over her. Mia’s hands were gently kneading her breasts and gently pinching her nipples while she nuzzled her neck.
“Mia… Mia… Oh!” Clearly, Mia hadn’t forgotten about the sensitive parts of her neck, and she knew just where to kiss her. She had tried to rub her thighs together, but Mia had one of hers in between them. She was about to moan in frustration but then Mia started to move her thigh back and forth, rubbing her pubic bone and gently rubbing her clitoral hood over her magic button, and Sahsha hovered on the edge. She had her hands over Mia’s restless ones and her thighs involuntarily clamped hard on Mia’s thigh, but Mia persisted and Sahsha trembled on the edge for what felt like a long time.
“Oh, Mia!” Sahsha moaned. “I can’t stand it anymore! Do it, Mia, do it!”
And Mia responded by raising her leg a little bit more, making the contact stronger and harder, and, like a Roman candle, Sahsha’s brain exploded in fireworks. She shuddered as her orgasm raced through her, and Mia just kept piling it on and on, and Sahsha felt like the top of her head was about to fly off.
As Sahsha started coming off her orgasm, her thighs unclamped and Mia stopped. Sahsha turned around and gave her a hug. But she was so tired, she fell asleep almost immediately.
Mia giggled. She thought only men fell asleep after sex.
That night, Mia and Sahsha did it several more times, and Sahsha introduced her to other sexual positions that Mia didn’t know about. Mia gamely tried them all, under Sahsha’s loving tutorship, and she had definitively put to bed the question if whether her sex change had affected Sahsha’s feelings for her or not.
Mia and Sahsha programmed their electronic concierges on their CCs to screen out all the unimportant calls, and they spent the rest of the day in Mia’s quarters, raiding Mia’s emergency supplies instead of going to the officers’ mess when they got hungry. Sahsha remotely activated the “do not disturb” light on her own cabin door to not give others any ideas of where she really was, and no one bothered them until thirteen hundred hours the following day.
Until then, they got caught up with each other, with Sahsha talking about her little day-to-day struggles, and Mia talked about her struggles to adjust to being a girl. Sahsha said she thought Mia was doing well as a girl, but did say that she was a little too flirty with the women.
Sahsha expertly trimmed the frayed ends of Mia’s hair with a pair of scissors she found in Mia’s beauty kit, as they chatted and hugged, and relaxed in each other’s company.
Mia said she thought she wasn’t flirty with women, but Sahsha said she was, and gave her a few examples. Mia tried to understand why she was doing so, and she was open to suggestions, but Sahsha couldn’t pinpoint it. And besides, Sahsha said, it’s who she was now. Sahsha said she just had to stop being jealous of the girls that were fawning all over Mia. And the boys, too, she giggled.
“Don’t you mean that the other way around?” Mia said.
“You’d think so, huh?” Sahsha giggled.
Mia turned over and put her arm over Sahsha’s waist. “I didn’t mean to make you jealous,” Mia said. “I’m sorry.”
Sahsha lifted Mia’s hand, and kissed her palm Elyran fashion. “I know, my love,” she said. “But what else is new? Even as Bill, you were like that, as well. I guess I just have to keep my jealousy in check. The thing is, before, I was just in competition with the girls. Now I have to deal with the boys, too.” She giggled again.
“You have nothing to worry about,” Mia said.
“Really?” Sahsha said humorously. “Not even Her Royal Highness, Princess Tasha of Elyra?”
Mia cleared her throat. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said.
“Oh, come on. It’s so obvious. Except maybe to you, Tasha and Ren. I don’t know what it is about you royals. You’re all so clueless.”
“What do you mean, ‘you royals?’”
Sahsha giggled. “Oh, nothing, Lady Amelia.”
“Why you…” Upon which, Mia tickled her mercilessly until she begged for mercy. And that devolved to another bout of lovemaking.
Mia’s CC pinged, and since her “unimportant calls” were being screened, she knew this one was important. She put on her robe and made sure Sahsha wasn’t in range of the camera before turning it on.
“Sorry to disturb you during your rest period, sir,” the duty officer on the bridge responded. “We just had a priority call from the Fleet Admiral’s office. His secretary said he’d be calling in fifteen minutes, and he’ll want to speak to you and the rest of the Fifth Fleet commanders.”
“All right, Lieutenant. I’ll be there shortly. Please page all the commanders, and tell them we’ll be in conference call with the Admiral. Also, page the First Ambassador, Admiral Daxx, and Princess Tasha and Prince Ren as well. If they’re on board, ask them to meet me on the bridge.”
“Acknowledged, sir.” And he signed off.
Mia turned to Sahsha. “Looks like it’s back to the old grind for me.”
“That’s okay. I should get used to things like this. The woman I love is the boss, after all.” She reached for Mia and gave her a kiss. “You get ready and get a shower. I’ll sneak away to my cabin.”
“See you later, then.”
Mia was on the bridge in less than fifteen minutes, in uniform and carrying her pressure suit in a fabric bag. She handed it to Nick to put away, and faced the main screen. O’Connell came over and saluted, and Mia nodded. In a bit, Ren, Tasha, Daxx and the First Ambassador also entered the bridge, and Mia smiled and nodded in their direction.
Last to come in was Sahsha.
“Hey, Sahsha,” Mia said a little nervously. “What are you doing here?”
Sahsha gave her a merry, slightly mischievous smile. “Oh, the Admiral’s secretary called and asked me to attend, to represent the Secretary-General.”
Mia sighed in relief.
On the screen were Captain M’klele Okonkwo of the Hermes, Capitaine Alain Dupont of the Constellation, Capitan Perdita Alvarez y Zaragoza of the Victoria, Kapitan Anna Valeriya Tershkova of the Kirov, Kapitan Marlena Koch of the Bismarck, Captain Masako Nobunaga of the Mikasa, Captain Tolar of the Dixx battle flagship Protector, Lady Reena, Ship’s Pilot and Mistress of the Elyran flagship Talon, Lady Areeya, Ship’s Pilot and Mistress of the Elyran cruiser Blazing Star, Captain Rexx of the Dixx battleship Flying Cloud, Captain Ehlar of the Dixx battleship Crimson Sun, and the Second Cruiser Commander of Arachnia for Cruiser 99.
“Good afternoon, everyone. I’m sorry to bring you all here on your rest day. Admiral Silverman has called us all in. But before the Admiral calls, I’d like to formally welcome Arachnia’s Second Cruiser Commander, the Captain of Cruiser 99.”
The Arachnian bowed in the Elyran manner, and everyone murmured their welcome.
“You know, pretty soon, we’re going to need a bigger screen,” Mia said, and everyone laughed.
In a short while, the Fleet Admiral logged on.
“Good evening everyone,” Admiral Silverman said as he came online.
“Good evening, sir,” Mia said, saluting.
“Hello, Lady Amelia,” Silverman said. “I will cut to the chase. We have spotted another of those ‘smudges’ approaching the Zeos system.”
The Second Commander cut in. “Excuse me, Admiral. What is a 'smudge’?”
“Lady Reena, can you summarize for the commander?”
Reena bowed. “The admiral is referring to the Phase-Wave footprint that the EM-suppression field generated by the Empire’s so-called ‘curtain of light’ leaves in Phase-Wave scans. This means that there is one or more Empire ships approaching Colossus hiding within that smudge.”
“Exactly. Thank you, Lady Reena. In any case, at its rate of approach, it should be within the Colossus area of responsibility in about seventy-two Earth hours. We will be transmitting all the information we have shortly. Lady Amelia, I would like for the Fifth Fleet to intercept this incoming enemy force. You have carte blanche in repelling the enemy. If you need more reinforcements, the Windsor and the Gibraltar from the Fourth Fleet have been put under your temporary command. They have currently been ordered to remain in close proximity to Colossus, to act as a secondary line of defense. Where is Ms. Delyer?”
“Here, Admiral,” Sahsha said, raising her hand.
“Miss Delyer, the Secretary-General has asked me to ask you to take care of raising the alarm with the Federation. She has given you the authority to do whatever is necessary in order to accomplish this. Do it, and do it quickly. And coordinate with Lady Amelia.”
“Of course, sir. But why is the Secretary-General not online with you?”
“She apologizes, but she is busy. We are all busy, actually. That’s because we have detected another of those smudges approaching the Solar System. It’s about a hundred hours from Saturn, so we are starting to mobilize. I cannot give you much detail about it since we have just found out. We’ll send you information as we get it.
“Furthermore – Lady Amelia: we have detected similar smudges approaching Elyra, Dixx and Arachnia but they are still months away, and are sporadic in nature. We are still gathering data but are transmitting all information we currently have to you. Where is Nick?”
“Lieutenant, take care of warning the ships en route to Elyra, Arachnia and Dixx, as well as the government on the three planets. Coordinate with the Admiral and Ms. Delyer.”
“How about the other Federation planets, sir?”
“There are no other smudges near, or approaching, any Federation colony or planet, other than the five I have told you about. If ever there is a change, we will contact you.”
He turned to Mia.“Lady Amelia? Are we clear?”
“Aye, aye. We won’t let you down, sir. Good luck.”
“Good luck to us all, Lady Amelia. Silverman out.”
When Silverman tuned out of the conference, Mia turned to Sahsha and Nick.
“Okay, you guys. Do what you need to do. Use my office if you need to. Now go send out the word. Okay?”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Sahsha approached Ren and, after a few exchanges of words, Sahsha, Ren and the First Ambassador left together.
As for the rest, they started discussing strategy.
The incoming enemy was approaching Colossus from the other side of Zeos System’s sun, and they had no ships over there.
None of the other Federation people wanted to believe them, especially Cor, who accused the Earthers of rabble rousing.
Cruiser 99 was the fastest Federation ship the Fifth Fleet had with the best optical systems, so Mia dispatched it to visually assess the situation. Using the little round ship’s array of optical telescopes, they had to track back from the coordinates that were given them since the coordinates were real-time. Eventually, Cruiser 99 was able to spot them visually, knowing that the images were several hours behind the data from Earth. Based on Cruiser 99’s images, they found out that it was a squadron of twenty-two ships, with two of them fuel carriers. The invaders had similar numbers to the one that was sent to Earth, except these were all Detterex ships.
Cruiser 99 hung back to avoid the effects of the field and relay more data.
The pictures that Cruiser 99 sent back convinced the Federation representatives, and they started deploying their ships. Per protocol, they needed to send an emissary first to give the invaders a chance to reconsider their actions, or perhaps clarify their purpose in coming to Colossus. But the fact that the enemy was coming from the far side of the sun showed that their motives were less than straightforward. The only reason to approach Colossus that way was to hide their approach.
Sahsha warned them of the EM suppression field, but the Federation people said they couldn’t detect anything.
“Of course, you can’t detect anything, you…” O’Connell thought.
Colossus’ fastest courier ship sped towards the twenty-two Detterex cruisers, while a fourth of the Colossus squadron, more than thirty ships from several different races, was deployed. With a numeric advantage over the enemy, Federation strategists assumed that was more than enough to beat the enemy back if necessary.
Mia had informed them of the Fifth Fleet’s plan, which was to hide their ships behind the sun and wait until the very last moment before attacking. The Erocii squadron leader scoffed at their very cowardly strategy and left them to it while they proceeded to the enemy. Following the flight plan of Cruiser 99, the thirty ships moved around the sun and started to directly make for the Detterex ships. Cruiser 99 asked for instructions, and Mia told them to move to a higher orbit and stand by for the rest of the Fifth Fleet.
Mia had explained about the Curtain of Light, but the Dravidians said that they weren’t worried. They'd just have to search for the appropriate frequencies that were not affected by the EM disruption. Mia said that was very unlikely, but the Dravidians ignored her.
By the time the courier was near the lead ships of the enemy, the enemy was already down to ship-maneuverable speeds. Telemetry and communications from the courier disappeared, which meant that it had crossed the field’s radio boundary, and when that happened, the lead Detterex ships opened fire with their missiles, and the courier exploded.
It was clear what that meant, and the fact that they lost communications meant that the EM suppression field was in effect. The communications people on the two Dravidian ships started beaming EM probes to get clues about the field but the beams all seemed to just disappear.
The Detterex made adjustments to their course to intercept the Federation ships directly.
Mia radioed that the radio boundary of the field was about to close over them, but the Erocii commander said not to transmit again as they were disrupting their communications. It was like a slap, so Mia just switched off before she said anything she’d regret later.
With the Detterex fleet moving towards the Federation ships, and the Federation ships moving towards the Detterex fleet, the distance between them disappeared very rapidly.
Several of the lead Detterex ships deployed what looked like shuttles, and with their thrusters on full burn, they rapidly accelerated towards the other group of ships, but after a few thousand kilometers, they decelerated rapidly and just cruised at the same pace of their fleet. The Federation cruisers started firing at the incoming shuttles but their energy weapons just fizzled out when they hit the EM field. Given the information that the Earther ships had been constantly transmitting about the location of the field boundary, the Dravidians calculated that the shuttles were riding the very edge of the field. The Dravidians used every sensor they had but nothing they used seemed to do anything. As a last resort, they radioed the Earthers and asked for advice. Mia responded and told them to pull back.
Laboriously, the two extremely large Dravidian cruisers pulled up. They couldn’t reverse immediately if they wanted to – as far as Mia knew, only Earther ships could – so they changed their so-called “angle of attack,” and started angling out and away. The slow and ponderous movements of the Dravidians just confirmed what Mia had thought – the Dravidians had traded their ships’ maneuverability and acceleration for solidity and strength.
“Everyone! Spread out! Move away from each other! The Detterex are closing in! If you don’t, the enemy will be able to get you in one shot. Come on, come on!”
“Earther,” an electronic-sounding voice came on. It was the Erocii commander’s translator. “I have told you before. Get off this frequency. You have been warned.”
“But, Commander! You have to spread your squadron. You’re making it easy for the enemy to target your ships.”
“I know strategy better than you, Earther. You should be quiet and pay attention to how your elders do it.”
Like with the Dravidians, a few did listen to Mia and, following the Dravidians’ lead, started to move out of formation. This angered the Erocii and he sent commands to his fleet not to break formation.
By that time, the six enemy shuttles that were leading the Detterex fleet suddenly accelerated. They started making for the Federation squadron, which triggered the Federation commanders to react. Since the shuttles were out of the EM field, that meant that they were now vulnerable to energy weapons. However, the surprise at the sudden maneuver didn’t help the Federation ships with their targeting so the shuttles were able to get through. The six streaked through and in between their ships, and when they were well within the squadron and spread out, they detonated simultaneously.
The shuttles were nuclear suicide bombs.
In that one shot, the Detterex took out twenty-two of the Federation ships. Only the outermost ships, which included the Erocii commander’s cruiser in the lead and the trailing ships at the rear escaped the atomic explosions.
As for the Dravidians, they were well away from the blast and were just overcoming their inertia and moving up and over to return to the fight. In the future, Federation pilots would call such maneuvers “Earther tactics,” or, more commonly, “mentally deranged Earther tactics,” but one thing they had to agree about – if executed properly, “Earther tactics” are the most useful when large battle cruisers go toe-to-toe against each other.
But for this particular situation, the tactic didn’t help much since the Dravidians were incredibly massive and incredibly slow.
Once their kamikaze shuttles had completed their deadly mission, the Detterex turned the EM suppression field, or their “curtain of light” to maximum effect, rendering the entire Federation fleet, as well as Colossus, deaf and dumb. It was only then that the Federation crews realized everything that the Earthers said was true. At least Colossus wasn’t as dependent on non-wired communications as the Earthers, so they’d probably last longer.
The Phase-Wave suppression also went into full effect, affectig the Earther ships and rendering them deaf and dumb as well.
In this deadly comms silence, the Detterex streaked by the remnants of the Federation squadron, and continued on and started to round the sun. The solar winds and waves never wavered so it seemed the EM suppression field didn’t affect the sun, which was not unexpected.
What was unexpected by the Detterex were the Earthers lying in wait.
As the Detterex ships started their run around the sun, they ran into a virtual curtain of missiles that were fired by the Earthers seconds earlier. Three of the leading ships, and another three plus one of the tanker ships immediately behind them were hit. No doubt they were wondering where the ships that launched them were, but they weren’t around. The EM field was working against them in this instance because they had no sensors to look for the Earth fleet. The trailing Detterex ships made adjustments to avoid the suddenly-crippled ones. Those that were hit had lost most of their angular thrust since their engines seemed to have been compromised, and they stopped going around the sun and, instead, just continued in a straight escape trajectory away from the sun.
As for the remaining ships that were undamaged, they continued on in their journey around the sun. Again, not expecting it, they walked into yet another curtain of missiles. Another seven of the ships were hit. Like the first group, five of them couldn’t maintain their course and drifted away, with one of them having a complete power systems failure. The remaining ships continued on, but this time they tried to retaliate, firing blindly, but since there were no ships to hit, it was all in vain. As their missiles flew away ineffectively, the twelve Fifth Fleet ships came up into view. The three Earther cruisers in front – the Kirov, Hermes and the Bismarck - fired their rail guns while the Blazing Star, the Flying Cloud and the Crimson Sun fired yet another brace of missiles. Another six ships were hit, and two of them couldn’t stay on course as well. Only seven of the enemy battle cruisers, and the one tanker, remained on course for Colossus, and they roared past the Fifth Fleet without firing an additional missile.
“I guess we need to activate our plan now, Admiral,” O’Connell said to Mia.
“Yes, Captain, but before that, we need to send out a shuttle past the EM field and transmit a copy of our logs and telemetry records back to EarthForce via Phase-Wave.”
“What? Now, Admiral?”
“Yes, Captain. Now. The enemy back home is nearing striking distance of Saturn. If they pull the same gimmick they just pulled here…”
“You’re right.” She turned to the communications officer. “Lieutenant. Get on that. Send out a shuttle quickly. And tell the pilot to stay out there and wait for a response.”
Having done that, they turned back to their current predicament.
Per their plan, the Hermes, Bismarck, Kirov, Mikasa, Talon, and Flying Cloud went into full acceleration and flashed around the sun. Midway around the sun, on the side opposite to Colossus the six would start maximum braking and, if they timed it right, they’d get to Colossus before the Detterex. The rest of the Fifth Fleet made for the runaway enemy ships – the Constellation and Blazing Star made for the closest ones while the Victoria, Crimson Sun and the Protector made for the next ones, and the Shepherd Moon would rendezvous with Cruiser 99 for the last group.
O’Connell left the others to their own missions and concentrated on her own. “Maximum acceleration please, and bring us to the last location of the first breakaway group, Lieutenant,” she said to the Shepherd’s pilot.
“Aye, sir,” he responded. “Have computed for their last location using dead reckoning. Setting course.”
He activated the ship’s engines, went to maximum, and in a minute, they were there. He had to use maximum to reach the appropriate velocity for the inertia converters to work. At the appropriate time, he blipped the converters and they came to a virtual standstill.
“Okay, find Cruiser 99 and the enemy. They’ve probably moved already.”
In a few moments, a tactical display was put on the main screen, and they found Cruiser 99 already engaging the enemy ships several hundred thousand kilometers away. Apparently the enemy had already recovered and were now harassing Cruiser 99, and she was valiantly turning away missile volley after missile volley with her anti-missile defenses, but a seven-to-one ratio meant that it was just a matter of time. She was in desperate need of help.
“All right,” O’Connell said, “get us fifty kilometers to the rear of Cruiser 99.”
“Wait!” Mia called. She tapped the comms officer. “Get the chief engineer on the intercom.”
“Engineering here,” the chief engineer said.
“Chief, this is the admiral. I have a question?”
“Can you modify the output of the inertia converters into coherent beams?”
“Lasers? But, Admiral – I thought the whole point of the converters was to disperse converted energy in unfocused visible EM light waves…”
“I know. Just answer my question.”
“Sure. It can be done. They’re pulse emitter turrets, after all. In fact, I can do it from here, provided that we can power them up properly.”
“If we can, can you change them into weapons-type lasers?”
“Admiral, current energy shields make lasers obsolete, and even without shields, the structural integrity fields would render such coherent light emission weapons as effective as flashlights.”
“Yes, except if you pump the wattage up by a whole hell of a lot. Wait…” The chief engineer paused, thinking. “Aye, sir! I’ll have them ready in a minute. We’ll need to charge them, though.”
Mia grinned. “We’re on it, Chief.” She turned to O’Connell. “Captain, you now have one more distance weapon.”
O’Connell grinned. “Aye, sir. Lieutenant, lock the energy converter turrets onto the enemy, and keep it locked in.”
“Which ship, sir?”
“Any of them. The one closest to Cruiser 99.”
“Aye. Standing by.”
The Shepherd went to maximum again to reach point-5 C, and then came to a virtual stop at a point about fifty kilometers off the rear of Cruiser 99.
“Chief!” O’Connell called. “How are we on the energy converters?”
“The capacitors are at two hundred and ten percent, Skipper. Need to get rid of the all that power now or we may be in trouble.”
“Lieutenant, are the turrets still on target?”
“Okay, full discharge. Execute!”
The Shepherd’s navigator pressed the button that would normally discharge the energy converters, but instead of a flash of light from the sixteen converted turrets, four bright fingers of light came out of the top-most turret - one sapphire blue, one ruby, one emerald green and one pure white – and they speared out into space and directly into one of the Detterex ship. Each beam had about three petawatts of power behind it, and they punched through the ship like a bullet through tissue paper.
Whatever they hit caused several explosions and the ship shuddered as it broke apart. A large set of explosions on the lower starboard hull caused it to spin counterclockwise, and the other ships had to scatter. Not that they were bumper-to-bumper, but even with clearances of at least five kilometers between them, they weren’t taking chances. This gave Cruiser 99 a chance to break away and escape the barrage.
The Shepherd started maneuvering, picked the closest Detterex cruiser and started bombarding it with her forward rail guns. Aside from that, she deployed her complement of Shrike fighters and they made for Cruiser 99 to give her cover long enough for her to launch her own fighters.
Since the Arachnian fighters didn’t have communications they took their cue from the Earther fighters and backed them up in shooting down missiles.
The arrival of the Shepherd was totally unexpected, catching the Detterex unawares. The laser attack and the follow-up rail gun bombardment netted the Shepherd two more kills.
As for the remaining ships, O’Connell tried the lure-and-attack gambit that worked before, but though the enemy had recovered a little bit from the original missile attack, the enemy ships weren’t capable of following. Because of the EM suppression field, the Shepherd had very few advantages over the enemy at the moment, and since they were in open space, O’Connell was completely out of any crazy Earth maneuvers. It would be a war of attrition, and the one who lasted longest would win. And with a five-to-two ratio, it wasn’t looking good, even though one of them was a tanker.
That gave O’Connell an idea.
“Is that laser comm receiver on Cruiser 99 working?”
“I believe so, sir.”
“Okay. Send the commander a message and tell them we will try to maneuver the enemy’s tanker closer to the other ships. Tell them to target the tanker as soon as we’re away. Wait for an acknowledgement.”
“Aye, sir. They’ve acknowledged.”
“Okay, then.” She turned to the pilot. “Lieutenant, pull away from the bulk of the enemies and maneuver us nearer the tanker.”
Using her flywheels, the Shepherd pivoted thirty degrees and fired her anti-gravs. She was then moving around the somewhat-clustered Detterex but still out of the range of their anti-ship weapons. Her rail guns were enough to turn away any missiles fired at her, and she was soon able to approach the tanker ship unscathed, which was flying several thousand kilometers away from the Detterex warships.
As the Shepherd got nearer, the tanker crew started to panic. They fired a large wave of missiles at Shepherd and started moving their tanker closer to the other Detterex ships looking for cover. But the other Detterex cruisers didn’t want the tanker to get closer to them and opened fire. Ironically, Shepherd found herself protecting the tanker, and used her rail guns to knock out the missiles aimed at it.
But the Shepherd’s approach was relentless and the tanker was pushed closer and closer to its sister ships. The Detterex ships shifted their target to the Shepherd, which made her turn away.
At that point, Cruiser 99 came into the fray, traveling faster than the Shepherd could manage at sublight, and started firing her missiles at the tanker. The sheer volume of missiles, and the fact that the Detterex ships’ focus was on the Shepherd, allowed Cruiser 99’s missiles to hit the mark, and the tanker’s liquid oxygen and hydrogen mixed together in an explosive manner. Though a lot of the explosion was towards empty space, most of it was towards the other Detterex ships. Three of the ships were caught like moths in a flame, and they were taken out of the fight. And with only two left in the fight, it became more of an even match.
By that time, the Federation ships that had escaped the nuclear blasts were now within weapons range. O’Connell made the decision to leave the disabled Detterex and started to recover their Shrikes, preparatory to moving on and helping the rest of the Fifth Fleet. She sent a laser message to Cruiser 99, and their commander said they would do likewise.
In under ten minutes, they had recovered their fighters and made for the other ships. After a sufficient run-up, the Shepherd was able to keep up with Cruiser 99 and was soon in laser comm range of the Victoria. O’Connell asked for a sitrep. It seemed their targeted five ships were more damaged than expected and the Victoria, the Crimson Sun and the Protector had quickly taken away their remaining ability to fight. O’Connell congratulated them and ordered them to leave the enemy to the Federation, and to proceed to the vicinity of the Constellation and Blazing Star.
Once they were near enough to the Constellation, they found the situation much the same, and O’Connell ordered them to join their convoy flying back to Colossus and the rest of the Detterex ships.
Since it would be over eight hours before they would be in range of the still-intact Detterex ships, O’Connell initiated a full inspection of all systems. She then had Mia paged via the intercom.
Mia sighed. Having to use the intercom was starting to get tedious.
“Steele here,” Mia replied.
“Admiral,” O’Connell said, “I have initiated a fleet-wide inspection. Initial reports show that we are mostly unscathed.”
“Excellent Captain. Please extend my compliments to the commanders, and get me their status as well. How about the enemy?”
O’Connell then gave her a report. Aside from those en route to Colossus, the enemy was dead, drifting in space.
“Good work,” Mia said. “I concour leaving the remains to the Federation ships. Right now, the intact ones are our bigger concern.”
“Aye, sir. Thank you. Pardon me for asking, Admiral, but where are you?”
“I am in the rear starboard hold, Captain. I’m assembling that package we brought over from the PRC.”
“I’ve been wondering about that, actually. What is it?”
“It’s Dr. Running-Stream’s prototype of the ‘Curtain of Light.’”
“What! We have our own EM suppression field?”
“Yes. Can you arrange for this to be moved down to Engineering?”
“Aye, sir.” O’Connell gestured and the comms officer started to make the arrangements. “But why would we need one now?”
“I’m worried that the Detterex might pull the same trick they did before. A couple of nuclear bombs right on top of Colossus could finish off the Federation as a cohesive entity, and then we’d all be up the creek without a paddle. With our own field, we can prevent any nuclear explosions.”
“I’ll take care of this. Take care of the ship, Captain. I’ll join you on the bridge as soon as I’m done here.”
After several hours had passed and they had rounded the sun, they now had a clear view of the enemy. And the other half of their fleet.
The rest of the Federation’s ships had also been deployed and had arranged themselves as a picket line. After the enemy had emerged from around the sun, the Federation ships divvied themselves up, with about eight ships assigned to each Detterex cruiser. The numbers were so lopsided that the Detterex were guaranteed to lose in a straight-up fight. There was also the Fifth Fleet convoy on their tails approaching from the other side.
It was an impending slaughter, and the Detterex surely knew that. But, like the Defiant back on the moon and the strategies she implemented, the Detterex went for broke. They stopped their deceleration, started speeding up again and committed themselves.
Like arrowheads, they made for Colossus and flew through the ships trying to interpose themselves between them and Colossus. Several of them were hit by missiles but they just powered through. They knew no ship would deliberately sacrifice themselves by literally blocking them, so the Detterex just knifed through, trusting in their velocity to avoid significant missile damage. But if they did sustain any crippling damage, well, with the losses that they have incurred, the nature of their mission had changed now – their mission was now simply to destroy Colossus at any cost.
As each Detterex cruiser speared through their own individual cloud of ships, they deployed several shuttles and fighter ships, as well as a brace of anti-ship missiles.
One of the ships, as soon as it reached its cloud of intercepting Federation ships, gigs and cutters, detonated itself, catching most of its pursuers in its fireball.
Soon, the enemy’s tactic became apparent. The Detterex ships sustained extreme damage but they still flew straight and true, accelerating directly towards Colossus like seven arrowheads trailing flame and debris, with the intention of slamming into Colossus with disastrous effect.
Mia made the decision and ordered her ships to go to full acceleration and target one Detterex ship apiece.
Constellation and Victoria got her lasered message and went to full acceleration. The Hermes, Kirov, Mikasa and Bismarck didn’t get the message, but saw them and went into full acceleration as well. The Federation ships observing them didn’t understand the tactic and just watched as the Earthers quickly went past ship-maneuverable.
The Earthers had one last trick up their sleeves.
As soon as the Shepherd, Constellation and Victoria were near their targeted ships, they blipped their inertia converters just enough and maneuvered to match their chosen enemy ship’s trajectory.
Shepherd Moon, Constellation and Victoria slowly closed in on their chosen ship inch by inch, and used their complement of rail guns to target their enemy’s weapons. When the Captains of the Earther ships were fairly sure that their enemy ship was more-or-less fully disarmed, they then inched slowly towards the Detterex cruisers.
Each then used her thrusters to solidly push herself against the enemy ship, and once it was in physical contact with the enemy’s hull, it then fired its inertia converters to maximum discharge.
This had the effect of bringing both ships to a virtual standstill. And as soon as they were, the Earthers used their thrusters and flywheels to peel out and away from the enemy, giving them enough distance to start firing, even while the enemy started moving backwards.
Mia had seen the deployment of her enemy ship’s shuttles so she had Engineer Haskell activate the Shepherd’s EM suppression field generator. So, even if the enemy switched off their own EM suppression field, Mia’s would make any nuclear weapons the enemy deployed to remain inert.
Seeing the Shepherd’s tactic, the Hermes, Kirov, Mikasa and Bismark did the same thing – made sure that the enemy couldn’t fire back at them, get in solid physical contact with the enemy long enough to be able to get rid of its inertia, and then pull back.
In less than fifteen minutes, the seven Earther ships had rendered the enemy ships dead in the water.
Whatever fight the Detterex had left was quashed. Some of them still had enough capacity to release their fighters and shuttles, so the Earthers deployed their own Shrike and Eagle fighters. Equipped with rail guns to compensate for the loss of their energy weapons, and laser comms (limited though they were) to compensate for the loss of Phase-Wave and radio, they had their advantage back. As before, during the battle of Pluto, they dominated the Detterex fighters once again, and were able to win the day. The enemy fought more furiously than ever since they had no option to retreat, but like before, none of the Earther fighters were shot down.
The farthest ship – the one that the Hermes had targeted - had also deployed fighters, but not as many. It could be assumed that it was more heavily damaged and therefore had less fighters to deploy. Hermes deployed its own Eagle fighters, and as the fighter-to-fighter showdown started to go into its peak, the Hermes’ underside – the side closest to the Detterex cruiser, exploded.
Later examination of the footage from Hermes and long-distance video from the Talon, Blazing Star and the Protector showed that the Hermes was hit with a barrage of anti-missiles. In the Talon’s video, one could see the Hermes actually bend a little, and buckle horizontally amidships.
After which, another escape ship, just like the Defiant, emerged from the scarred and battered Detterex cruiser, and it made a run for it.
The Gibraltar, one of the Earth cruisers from the Fourth Fleet, which was still hanging around Colossus, went into full drive and chased the escaping ship down. Before it could engage its FTL drive, Gibraltar was upon it and fired her entire complement of missiles, even as both were accelerating well above ship-maneuverable and bordering light speed.
Some kind of relativistic effect simultaneously detonated all of the Gibraltar’s missiles so she fired her converters immediately, escaping any damage from the explosions.
As the explosions faded away, they found that the escaping Detterex ship had disappeared.
- Washington DC
- Mistress of Confusion
Bobbi Cabot is a transgender girl in her thirties (35 y.o. as of 2016), who transitioned in 2005. She is known as "Roberta J. Cabot," "Bobbie-C," "Bobbie," "Bobbi" and "Bobbi-C" in the sites where she posts her stories.
Though not a professional writer, Bobbi is under the delusion that she writes passably well and indulges this delusion by sometimes posting stories, which is, thankfully, very seldom.
Bobbi's day job (the phrase "day job" is hereby stressed) involves being the big cheese of the overseas BPO practice of a Top 100 computer technology corporation.