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STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets

This is the place where we will be posting snippets of soon-to-be published works!
Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:04 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

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Location: East Central Illinois

Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 40

"I see." Zavala had an excellent poker face, but it was obvious from the glitter in his eyes that he'd echoed the governor's own words with malice aforethought. "May I ask the nature of this medical emergency? And how many other vessels which might have been exposed to it have also been detained?"

"I'm scarcely well-versed in medical matters, Captain. I had no choice but to rely on my own medical personnel to evaluate the risk, and then acted accordingly." Dueñas smiled with immense affability. "As for other vessels having been detained, I'm afraid there's no indication anyone else has been exposed to the apparent contagion's source."

"Then I'm certain you won't object to my own medical personnel interviewing and examining the crews of the two ships in question."

"I'm afraid that's quite impossible, Captain. Quarantine regulations are very strict, you know."

"I see," Zavala said for a second time, and cocked his head slightly. "And just precisely how long do you expect this quarantine period to continue, Governor Dueñas?"

"That's going to depend on the recommendations of my medical personnel." Dueñas' smile turned thinner and considerably less affable. "I'm afraid it could be…quite lengthy, however."

"Particularly given the fact that there's no medical justification for it at all, you mean, Governor?" Zavala's tone was even colder -- and more cutting -- then Dueñas' smile had been.

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about, Captain," the system governor replied, his smile disappearing. It was the response he'd wanted, but he was more than a little taken aback by how soon he'd gotten it. This Zavala was obviously even more arrogant than he'd expected!

"I'm almost tempted to believe that, Governor," the Manty said levelly. "That you can't give me a time estimate I mean. I don't suppose anyone ought to be surprised that someone stupid enough to pull something like this in the first place is also too stupid to count weeks on his fingers and toes. Frankly, I'm astonished he can even manage to wipe drool off his own chin."

Dueñas stiffened. For a handful of heartbeats, sheer incredulity that anyone would dare to speak that way to a Solarian-appointed governor held him motionless. His eyes widened in shock, and then he felt his face darken with a scalding flush of fury.

"I beg your pardon?!" he bit out.

"You should," Zavala said. "And you should come up with better lies next time, too, Governor. I doubt this one would fly even back in Old Chicago. And somehow I don't think Permanent Senior Undersecretary MacArtney's going to be very happy with you when this blows up as spectacularly as it's about to."

"What do you mean by that?" Dueñas demanded, his face still dark with rage, and Zavala shrugged.

"I mean there's no medical emergency and your 'quarantine' is as bogus as it is stupid, Governor. You've chosen to unlawfully seize not one but two Manticoran merchantmen in flagrant disregard of several solemn treaties and at least two cardinal principles of interstellar law, and you've done it on a pretext you know would never stand up in any admiralty court. Your attempt to cloak your actions under the cover of a medical quarantine might fool a particularly credulous two-year-old, but no one else is going to believe it for a moment. I certainly don't, and my orders from Lady Gold Peak are very clear on this point."

"And what might those orders be, Captain?" Dueñas' lips curled contemptuously, and Zavala shrugged.

"My instructions are to recover any unlawfully detained Manticoran vessels in this star system and to repatriate them to Manticoran space as expeditiously as possible, Governor."

"And just how do you intend to do that, Captain? Despite your own reckless language and contempt for a legally declared medical emergency, I have no intention of releasing quarantined vessels until I'm thoroughly convinced no health risk will result." Dueñas locked eyes with the Manticoran. "There may be a difference of opinion about the validity of that medical emergency, Captain Zavala, but its legal standing is beyond dispute."

"Its legal standing is exactly zero, Governor, so let's not waste each other's time pretending otherwise, shall we? Under the Treaty of Beowulf, you're required to grant my medical personnel access in order to determine the legitimacy of your personnel's diagnosis. You've refused to do so, which means your declaration of quarantine has no legal standing whatsoever."

"I'm afraid I disagree with your legal interpretation on that point, Captain," Dueñas said inflexibly. "And absent instructions from higher authority, I'm also afraid I'll have to act on my own understanding of the circumstances and the treaty's provisions. I'll be happy to request those instructions, of course, but" -- he smiled again, coldly -- "it will probably take some months to get clarification from Old Earth."

"That's unacceptable, Governor," Zavala said calmly.

"I'm afraid it's the best I can do, Captain. Under the circumstances, you understand."

"Oh, I understand the circumstances better than you may believe I do, Governor. With all due respect, however, I'm not certain you do."

"Meaning what, precisely, Captain?"

"Meaning I'm under orders to repatriate those vessels as quickly as possible by any means necessary. And if you need me to be more specific, Sir, 'any means necessary' does include the use of force."

"Are you seriously proposing to commit an act of war against the Solarian League on its own territory?" Dueñas demanded.

"First, the Saltash System is not Solarian territory," Zavala replied. "It's legally an independent star system, and the Solarian presence in it is -- legally -- solely to serve as a peacekeeping authority to prevent hostilities between the Republic of MacPhee and the Republic of Lochore. Although the Office of Frontier Security does enjoy certain administrative rights as a result of its agreements with MacPhee and Lochore, that doesn't make Saltash Solarian territory, no matter how much cash you squeeze out of it every T-year. Second, I'm not the one who's committed an act of war; you are. In the absence of a genuine and legitimate medical emergency to justify your so-called quarantine, your actions amount to piracy. And I might point out to you, Sir, that piracy is a capital offense. And, third, I'm not proposing to use force if you refuse to release my star nation's vessels and personnel peacefully; I'm promising to use force."

Dueñas stared incredulously at the officer in his display. Zavala looked extraordinarily -- indeed, one might almost have said insanely -- calm for a mere captain who'd just threatened a Solarian League governor in language like that. Dueñas had anticipated intransigence. In fact, he'd counted on it. But he'd never contemplated the possibility that Zavala would step into his trap so quickly…and with such obvious contempt for the League in general and Damián Dueñas in particular. It cut deep, that contempt, coming from such a lowly officer in the neobarb navy of a pipsqueak little star nation with delusions of grandeur, and the governor felt his face flushing angrily once more.

"Should you attempt to carry out that outrageous and totally unacceptable threat, Captain, it will be the end of your career! I promise you that! And the consequences for your star nation's relations with the Solarian League will be severe!"

"I doubt my career will suffer in the least, Governor, and even if I didn't, it would take a worse threat than that to prevent me from carrying out my instructions. And as for the Star Empire's relations with the League, I'll take my chances on that, too. To date, the League's been the instigator in every incident between the Star Empire and the League, including this one. And as my Empress and her government have attempted to make clear to Old Chicago, the Star Empire of Manticore is not prepared to allow the Solarian League to kill its personnel, insult its sovereignty, or seize its merchant vessels" -- his eyes bored into Dueñas' -- "without reaction. If you refuse to respond to an effort to resolve the crisis you've provoked by peaceful means, then I'm prepared to assume you prefer a more…bellicose resolution. In which case, Governor, my squadron and I are at your disposal."

"I've heard quite enough of this!" Dueñas snapped. "Be advised, Captain, that in light of the threatening language you've seen fit to use in this conversation, I have no alternative but to consider that your vessels represent a hostile force. If you continue deeper into the star system, I will so regard your presence and I will use all means at my disposal to resist your intrusion into Solarian-protected space."

"And would 'all means at my disposal' include the four Indefatigable-class battlecruisers currently approximately five thousand three hundred kilometers this side of Shona Station, Governor?"

Dueñas' jaw tried hard to drop at the Manticoran's level -- and undeniably contemptuous -- tone. Vice Admiral Dubroskaya had assured him that her vessels would be undetectable until the Manties got far closer than they were. The fact that Zavala already knew they were there was bad enough. The fact that he was prepared to issue such threats knowing they were present, though…

"You might want to inform the local senior officer that I have complete tactical readouts on his vessels," Zavala continued. "Including the fact that one of them is down a beta node in her forward impeller ring. I'm perfectly aware of their locations, and also of the three destroyers hiding on the far side of Cinnamon's moon. I'm not sure why you bothered to hide those, but I'm certain you had a reason that made sense to you, at any rate. To use your own turn of phrase, 'be advised' that I'm as well aware of the Solarian forces currently deployed in the Saltash System as I am of the SLN's demonstrated proclivity for firing on unprepared vessels of sovereign star nations with no warning. In light of that demonstrated proclivity, please inform your local commander that I entertain no doubt of my ability to engage and destroy all of his units if I should be forced to do so. And since you've seen fit to threaten my command with attack by 'all means' at your disposal, I have no option but to consider your warships to be hostile units. As such, I require that they stand down immediately. They will power down their impeller nodes and shut down all tracking and targeting systems, and their personnel will immediately evacuate to the surface of Cinnamon. And I should point out, Governor, that my sensor resolution of your vessels is more than adequate to determine their status and whether or not the life pods used to evacuate their crews are actually occupied. Assuming my requirements are met, your vessels will be left unmolested and you may…reclaim them following our withdrawal from the star system."

"And precisely what do you intend to do if this pipe dream of yours fails to come to fruition?" Dueñas demanded furiously.

"If your crews haven't abandoned ship within the next twenty-seven minutes," Zavala said with a flat, implacable calm worse than any shouted threats, "I will construe that as an indication of hostile intent, and I will open fire. The decision is yours, Governor. In either case, my ships will be in orbit around Cinnamon in approximately one and a half hours. Whether or not any of your warships are still intact at that time is up to you. Good day."

Dueñas was still staring at the display in disbelief when it went suddenly blank.
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:14 pm

DrakBibliophile
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I'm going to post three snippets per week for the remaining snippets

Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 41

Chapter Twelve

"I didn't realize the Commodore had such a command of diplomatic language, Ma'am," Alvin Tallman observed from his position in Tristram's Auxiliary Control over his private com link to Naomi Kaplan.

"He does have a way with words, doesn't he?" Kaplan replied. "I've always admired a well-turned phrase, and I was impressed by his subtlety, too. That comment about Tango Three's beta node was a nice touch, too. But at least nobody on the other side's going to be able to get away with claiming he didn't give them clear warning, now are they?"

"They may not get away with it, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to try to, Skipper," Tallman pointed out.

"That much was a given going in. Personally, I'm with the Commodore. Better to be hanged for hexapuma than a pussycat. Besides," Kaplan smiled coldly, "we tried it their way at New Tuscany. Now they can try it our way."

* * *

"He's got to be crazy, Ma'am," Tucker Kiernan told Oxana Dubroskaya flatly. "Five light cruisers against four battlecruisers? They've got at most -- what? Maybe eight tubes per broadside? Well, we've got twenty-eight per broadside!"

"Captain Kiernan has a point, Admiral," Captain Maksymilian Johnson, SLNS Vanquisher's commanding officer, said. "On the other hand, and not wanting to sound alarmist," the flag captain continued, "if they've got the kind of range advantage some of the wilder reports from New Tuscany indicate, they may be planning on opening fire from well beyond our range."

"Are you suggesting a batch of light cruisers is going to open fire at forty million kilometers, Sir?" Captain Kelvin Diadoro, Dubroskaya's operations officer, sounded a little more incredulous than he probably should have speaking to someone with Johnson's seniority, but the vice admiral couldn't really blame him.

"I'm not necessarily suggesting anything of the sort, Kelvin," Johnson replied with a touch of frost. "I would point out that forty million klicks does comport reasonably well with the claimed range at New Tuscany, but whether or not those claims have any relationship with reality is more than I'm prepared to say. What I am suggesting, however, is that this Zavala's clearly suggesting he has a significant range advantage and he's planning to use of it. And if it should happen he really does have that kind of range, it doesn't matter how many missile tubes we have and how many he has, since we won't be able to put fire on him without our birds going ballistic twenty or thirty million kilometers before they even reach him, at which point even a light cruiser's counter missiles and point defense will eat them for lunch."

"Maksymilian has a point, Admiral," Captain Meridiana Quinquilleros, SLNS Success' CO, said diffidently. All eyes swiveled towards her quadrant of the communications display and she shrugged. "I doubt any shipkillers a light cruiser could launch internally have anything like the range reported from New Tuscany, but they could still have more range than anything we've got. And whether or not it's going to work the way he has in mind, that's clearly what he has to intend to do if he's actually planning on engaging us at all."

"Point taken, Meridiana," Dubroskaya said, and turned her own gaze on Diadoro. "Assume that is what he has in mind, Kelvin. Where does that leave us?"

"We're talking about light cruisers here," Diadoro pointed out, "and I don't care how 'missile heavy' their tactical doctrine is, light cruisers -- even big-assed ones like these -- can't have more than two or three hundred shipkillers on board. You just couldn't fit them in, especially if they've got some kind of extended drive system to eat up still more mass and cubage. So call it fifteen hundred birds, each with the warhead of one of our own Spathas." The Spatha was the SLN's new-generation missile for destroyers and light-cruisers, with a considerably lighter laser head than the Javelins being issued to heavy cruisers and battlecruisers. "If they could hit us with all of them, it'd hurt, no question. But there's no way one of them could put more than eight or nine -- ten, max -- birds into a single salvo, and at least some of those are going to have to be penaides. Without that, they wouldn't have a prayer of getting through our missile defenses. So say they give up -- what? a quarter? -- of their total launch capability for penetration aids and electronic warfare platforms. That gives the five of them a maximum throw weight of about thirty-eight lightweight shipkillers per salvo against four Indefatigables. I've got to like those odds, Admiral."

"And if they've got any missile pods along?" Dubroskaya asked.

"I know that's what they probably used at New Tuscany -- and Spindle, assuming there's any accuracy at all to what we've heard." Diadoro added the qualifier conscientiously, although he was one of the squadron's officers who was confident the rumors about Spindle were wildly inaccurate. "And they could have a few along," he continued, "but they can't have many. They'd have to be tractored to their hulls, or our lightspeed platforms would have picked them up, and you just couldn't fit more than a handful of pods big enough to carry that kind of missiles onto the skin of a light cruiser. Besides, there're still the limitations of their fire control. A light cruiser's only got so many telemetry channels; there's no way they could control pod salvos big enough to get through our defenses. I'm not saying they might not get two or three leakers through, land a couple of lucky punches, and it's possible they could have enough range on internally-launched birds to engage us before we could engage them. But they're not going to be able to saturate our defenses heavily enough to let them win, especially with Spatha-grade laser heads. Not when they've got nine hundred thousand tons of warship and we've got three-point-four million tons."

"I can't fault Kelvin's analysis, Ma'am," Captain Ham Seung Jee of the Inexorable said. "The only problem I have is that the Manties have to be able to figure that out just as well as we can…and they're trying it anyway."

"I'd say that's because they've screwed the pooch," another voice said. The others looked at the com image of Captain Borden McGillicuddy, SLNS Paladin's CO, and he waved one hand in a throwing away gesture. "They're committed to coming down our throats," he pointed out. "Even if they went to max decel at this point, they're still going to have to come all the way to Cinnamon orbit before they can kill their current velocity. Whatever their damned range advantage, they're going to enter ours, whether they want to or not."

"You're suggesting this is some kind of bluff on their part?" Ham asked.

"All I'm suggesting at this point is that I don't think they got their 'invisible recon platforms' close enough to pick us up quite as early as they'd like us to believe," McGillicuddy replied. "Maybe this Zavala character didn't realize what he was walking into until just before he contacted Governor Dueñas. God knows we've all seen how arrogant Manties can be! Maybe he just came bulling straight in without bothering on scouting the inner system. After all, how likely was it that he was going to run into an entire division of battlecruisers in an out-of-the-way system like Saltash? By the time he figured out what he was actually up against, it was too late for him to fall back across the limit and hyper out. So maybe he decided that rather than rolling over he'd try to run a bluff on the strength of what's supposed to've happened at New Tuscany and Spindle."

"And when it doesn't work?" Dubroskaya asked.

"Then he goes ahead and rolls over anyway, probably, Ma'am," McGillicuddy said, and shrugged. "This time limit of his is going to put him a good thirty million klicks outside our powered missile envelope when it expires. That leaves him plenty of time to change his mind and adopt a more conciliatory tone before we could blow him out of space. If I were in his place, I might figure I didn't have anything to lose throwing my threats around ahead of time. If the other side blinks; I run the table. If the other side doesn't blink; I'm no worse off than I was and I can still surrender before he engages me."

Dubroskaya nodded slowly. McGillicuddy's hypothesis made a certain degree of sense, and Diadoro was certainly right about the limited magazine capacity and small broadside of a light cruiser. She wasn't quite as confident as McGillicuddy about the Manties' fundamental rationality, given the fact that they'd been foolish enough to pick a fight with the Solarian League in the first place, but the captain's analysis of the other side's unpalatable tactical situation had a lot to recommend it.

In fact, that was Dueñas' basic plan in the first place, she reminded herself. The whole object was to draw the Manties into an untenable position -- and get them to commit themselves in a way that clearly demonstrated their belligerence -- before they ever figured out we were here. Which is basically what Borden's arguing happened, after all.
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:02 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2121
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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 42

The governor might have hoped to have even more firepower available, but four battlecruisers against five light cruisers was an overwhelming mismatch by anyone's standards. And if she and Dueñas pulled it off -- if they forced an entire Manty light cruiser squadron to tamely roll over and surrender -- Education and Information's talking heads would turn it into an overwhelming triumph. The sort of thing the Solarian public wanted to hear about as an antidote for the rumors of devastation coming out of Spindle.

And let's be honest here. Borden's got a point -- Dueñas was luckier than hell I had even four BCs that could get here in time! If we hadn't, he'd be well and truly stuck in orbit in a leaky skinsuit right now.

The rest of Battlecruiser Squadron 491 was either dispersed to other star systems or in shipyard hands, but that was par for the course for Frontier Fleet. Its squadrons were always understrength, and there were always too many places they needed to be at the same time. But in this instance, at least, Dueñas truly had lucked out.

Always assuming Borden's right about the Manties screwing up, of course, she reminded herself conscientiously. Yet even as she did, she knew she didn't really think McGillicuddy was wrong.

Assume Kelvin's estimate is off, or that they really do have more range than we do, and they get a couple of dozen missiles through our defensive basket before we get close enough to hammer them, she thought. No, make it fifty to be on the safe side. Against four Indefatigables? Hell, even Javelin-range laser heads would hardly scratch our paint!

No, even if Borden didn't get everything right, there's no way these bastards can hope to take me on and walk away from it. They're truly and royally screwed, whatever happens, and I think I'll be able to live with being the first Solarian admiral to smack them down the way they deserve.

"Well," she said mildly, "since they know we're here now, I suppose we might as well go ahead and get our wedges up so we can welcome them properly."

* * *

"They're coming out to meet us, Ma'am," Abigail Hearns announced three minutes later, as the battlecruisers' nodes went fully online and a quartet of impeller wedges appeared on the tactical display and began moving away from their original position between Shona Station and DesRon 301.

"I see them, Guns," Naomi Kaplan replied almost absently, but Abigail knew that tone of voice. Tristram's CO was putting on her warrior's face, settling into predator mode while her brain whirred like another computer.

"We'll just have to see how serious they are about this, I suppose," Kaplan added a moment later, and her smile was hungry. For DesRon 301, and especially for HMS Tristram, the Star Empire of Manticore's confrontation with the Solarian League was personal.

Very personal.

That was as true for Abigail as for anyone else in the ship's company, and she found herself wondering if that was one of the reasons Lady Gold Peak had picked Captain Zavala's squadron for this operation in the first place.

* * *

Vice Admiral Dubroskaya's battlecruisers accelerated towards the oncoming Manticoran destroyers at 3.89 KPS squared, eighty percent of their maximum theoretical rate of acceleration. There was no particular hurry, and even at that low accel, they'd move over four million kilometers closer to the Manties before Zavala's twenty-seven-minute time limit expired. Of course, during that same time the Manties would move forty-two million kilometers closer to Cinnamon. The range between the two forces would be down to "only" 36,700,000 kilometers at that point, and the closing speed between them would give the Solarians' Javelin anti-ship missiles an effective powered envelope at launch of better than twelve million kilometers.

Dubroskaya was more willing than Kelvin Diadoro to admit that the Manties tube-launched missiles might have more range than hers, but nothing the size a light cruiser could stow internally was going to have a lot more, she thought as she watched her ships' icons moving across the display. For that matter, assuming constant accelerations on both sides, it would require only an additional fifteen and a half minutes for her to reach her own powered range of the Manties. Two of her ships -- Success and Paladin -- were Flight V Indefatigables, with the old SL-11-b launcher, with a forty-five-second launch cycle, but Vanquisher and Inexorable had the newer SL-13 launcher with a cycle time of only thirty-five seconds, and the Manties could probably do a bit better than that. Solarian destroyers and light cruisers certainly could have, given the smaller and lighter missiles with which they were armed, but any internally launched missile with enough range to threaten her squadron at this kind of range was going to have to be at least as large as her own Javelins. That was bound to slow their rate of fire, so call it thirty seconds for the other side's launch cycle. That meant they'd have time for roughly thirty-one broadsides before she could range on them, but with no more than eight to ten tubes per broadside, that would be only three hundred and ten missiles, maximum, per platform, delivered in combined salvos of no more than fifty each. And as Diadoro had pointed out, at least some of those missiles were going to have to be configured as penetration aids and electronic warfare platforms. Her four battlecruisers mounted eight counter missile tubes and sixteen point defense stations in each broadside, which gave the squadron thirty-two CMs and sixty-four laser clusters against a probable threat of no more than forty shipkillers per launch.

She smiled coldly, contemplating the plot. No cruiser-sized missile ever built was going to get through that strong a defense in sufficient numbers to stop her before she was able to bring her own tubes into action, and her ships mounted twenty-nine of them in each broadside. Once she got into range, she'd be firing salvos of a hundred and sixteen missiles each…at which point her heavier Javelins would reduce the Manties to drifting wreckage in quick order.

* * *

"They don't seem to be very impressed, Sir," George Auerbach observed quietly, and Jacob Zavala nodded.

"It's been my observation that the best way to impress a Solly is to shoot him squarely between the eyes," he told his chief of staff, never looking away from the plot. "You wouldn't want to shoot him anywhere else, though. You might hurt him."

Auerbach winced slightly at his CO's idea of humor, yet he couldn't deny that Zavala had a point. Still, he was the squadron's chief of staff, which gave him certain responsibilities.

"We'll be coming up on Point Alpha in about ten minutes, Sir. Are you sure you want to go with Sledgehammer?"

"Doing your job again, I see, George," Zavala said, turning away from the tactical display to smile briefly at Auerbach.

"As you say, Sir, it is my job."

"I know, George. I know."

Zavala reached up to put his hand on the taller Auerbach's shoulder and squeezed gently. And, he admitted to himself, the chief of staff had a point. No one in DesRon 301 had been particularly happy with Fire Plan Zephyr, the alternative to Sledgehammer, yet he had to concede that it would be more elegant and might -- might! -- reduce the severity of the incident which was about to occur here in Saltash.

The problem was that it would also be riskier…and far less personally satisfying.

I wonder how honest I've been with myself about this? Zavala thought. It would be riskier, but how much have I allowed that satisfaction quotient to color my thinking?

He made himself stand back and consider the alternatives one more time.

Zephyr would be more in the way of a demonstration of the consequences of unreasonableness than a serious attack: a concentrated salvo of Mark 16s fired from far beyond the Sollies' effective range to penetrate their defenses without hitting anything, much as Duchess Harrington had done to the Havenites' Second Fleet with Apollo at First Manticore and Captain Ivanov had done more recently, in Zunker. In theory, a reasonable Solarian commander would realize most of his ships would be pounded into ruin in the fifteen or sixteen minutes it would take him to get into his own range of Zavala's squadron. At which point, that hypothetical reasonable Solarian commander would conclude he had no alternative but to stand down after all.
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:02 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2121
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 43

There was, however, a minor weakness in that logic: it presupposed a reasonable Solarian commander. There'd been precious few of those in evidence since Josef Byng had come upon the scene. Worse, if the commander on the other side refused to take the hint, Zavala would have wasted one of his salvos for no return, and a Roland's limited magazine space was its Achilles' heel. With only twenty rounds for each of his tubes, he couldn't afford to "waste" ammunition. And, still worse, even a Solly who wasn't totally unreasonable might decide he could survive whatever DesRon 301 could throw at him for fifteen minutes and still get to grips with the destroyers. Zavala didn't think Dubroskaya could, but his analysis of the only engagement between a Mark 16-armed force and Solarian-designed battlecruisers suggested that they might. Of course, Aivars Terekhov had been equipped with the first-generation Mark 16 at the Battle of Monica, whereas DesRon 301's birds mounted the latest Mod G laser heads. That probably changed the equation considerably, but there was no way for Zavala to know that.

Either way, given their closing velocity, the Sollies were going to overfly his own ships before they could decelerate, and any of the battlecruisers which survived the crossing might well escape into hyper after all. Zavala doubted any of them would survive, and even if they did get into their own missile range of DesRon 301 before they were knocked out, a Roland-class destroyer's missile defenses were actually considerably tougher than an Indefatigable's, given the superiority of Manticore's counter missiles, decoys, and ECM.

But his destroyers were no better armored than any other destroyer or light cruiser. If Zavala was wrong about his defenses' ability to fend off incoming missiles, and if the Sollies got lucky, it wouldn't take very many Javelin hits to ruin a Roland's entire day.

Besides, he thought grimly, we don't owe these bastards a frigging thing, and I'm damned if I'm going to put my people at risk trying to keep the arrogant pricks from getting themselves killed!

It was possible, he conceded, that he wasn't cut from the right material for a successful diplomat. On the other hand, Countess Gold Peak had known that when she sent him out.

"I've thought about it, George," he said. "I really have. But no, we're not going with Zephyr."

"Yes, Sir." Commander Auerbach gazed into the display or a second or two, then shrugged.

"Actually, Sir, I'm fine with that," he said.

* * *

"Com request from the Manties, Ma'am," Commander Gervasio Urbanowicz said. Vice Admiral Dubroskaya glanced at him, and the communications officer shrugged. "It's that Captain Zavala, Ma'am, and I think his signal's being relayed by whatever he used to speak to the Governor FTL. It's a standard com laser coming from some kind of platform just ahead of us, at any rate."

Dubroskaya glanced at Captain Kiernan.

"Interesting timing, Ma'am," Kiernan said. "Maybe McGillicuddy was onto something after all."

"I suppose we're about to find out," Dubroskaya said, and nodded to Urbanowicz. "Put it on the main display, Gervasio."

"Yes, Ma'am."

The same officer whose image Governor Dueñas had relayed to Dubroskaya appeared on the master communications display. He looked out of it for a moment, then his eyes narrowed as he saw her image. It had taken less than two seconds for him to react, even though they were still better than two light minutes apart, but at least she'd had enough forewarning to keep her unhappiness at that proof of his FTL capabilities from reaching her eyes or her expression.

"I am Vice Admiral Oxana Dubroskaya, Solarian League Navy," she said coldly. "What can I do for you, Captain Zavala?"

"You might consider standing down and abandoning ship in the next two minutes or so, Admiral Dubroskaya," he replied, and an icy centipede seemed to sidle along her spine as his unflinching eyes and level tone registered. If this was a man who'd just discovered his bluff had failed, he was one hell of a poker player.

"And what makes you think I might be interested in doing that, Captain?" she asked. "I believe Governor Dueñas has made the Solarian League's position abundantly clear. If, however, you'd care to surrender your vessels before I turn them into a drifting debris field, feel free."

"You know," Zavala said coldly, "I'm perpetually astonished by Solarian arrogance. My recon platforms picked up your battlecruisers less than forty-five minutes after my alpha translation, Admiral. That's how long they've been all over you. And I knew not just where you were but what you were better than a half hour before I made turnover, and I've got over two hundred gravities of accel in reserve. Think about that. If I'd been worried about what you might do to me, I could've been all the way back across the hyper limit and headed home before I even spoke to Governor Dueñas."

The centipede seemed to have invited its entire family to keep it company, Dubroskaya reflected.

"That's a bold statement, Captain," she heard her own voice say. "You'll forgive me if I point out that I have only your word for your remarkable acceleration rate and the amazing capabilities and supernatural stealthiness of those recon drones of yours. Personally, I find things like the Tooth Fairy a bit difficult to believe in."

"So should I assume from your skepticism that you think you've managed to track my actual recon platforms? You know exactly where each of them is?"

"Probably not all of them," Dubroskaya admitted. In fact, they'd managed to localize no more than a dozen of them, and all of those had remained beyond effective engagement range from her battlecruisers. She'd used up twenty or thirty missiles before she'd accepted that, but they were devilishly elusive targets and they kept disappearing back into stealth and zipping away from their plotted positions before her missiles could get there. She felt confident the Manties would have deployed more than that, and her sensor sections had been picking up backscatter from grav pulses which might represent additional platforms or have something to do with the Manties' obvious ability to transmit broadband data at faster-than-light speeds. Still, there couldn't be a lot more of them without her people having picked them up.

"Your stealth systems obviously are better than we'd expected, but I imagine we've located the majority of them at least approximately," she continued, her tone only slightly more confident than she actually felt.

"Then watch your plot, Admiral," Zavala invited in that same, cold voice, and Dubroskaya heard Diadoro inhale sharply. Her eyes darted to the main plot as CIC updated it…and an entire globe of icons -- thirty of them, at least -- appeared around her battlecruisers, keeping pace with them effortlessly at ranges as low as a light-second and a half, as they dropped their stealth. They glittered there, taunting her with their proximity, for at least ten seconds. Then, before her startled fire control officers could lock them up, they vanished mockingly once more. She had no doubt they were all busily streaking away to completely different positions from which to keep her under observation from within their protective cloak of invisibility.

"Admiral Dubroskaya, I can read the names on your ships' hulls from here," Zavala told her as the dusting of icons disappeared from her plot once again, "and I still haven't shown you all of my platforms. I warn you once again that I knew exactly what your battlecruisers were before I contacted Dueñas and I have real-time data on every move you make. You can abandon ship now and save a lot of lives, or what's left of your people can abandon what's left of your ships when I'm done with them. And if you think for one moment that I'll hesitate to pull the trigger, Admiral, you just reflect that the ships Josef Byng slaughtered at New Tuscany came from this destroyer squadron. I'm giving you a chance to save your people's lives, which is a hell of a lot more than he gave Commodore Chatterjee or any of our other shipmates. But that's as far as the ship goes, Admiral, and you now have seventy-five seconds to tell me you're going to abandon."

They locked eyes, and despite her best effort, Dubroskaya couldn't convince herself he was bluffing. He might be wrong -- in fact, he probably was -- but he wasn't bluffing. If she didn't accept his terms, he would open fire as soon as he was in range.

But she couldn't. She simply couldn't surrender four battlecruisers to only five light cruisers. She couldn't…and not just because of Dueñas' orders. Maybe the stories about New Tuscany, even the wild rumors coming out of Spindle, were true after all. But if they were, that only made it even more imperative that the Navy draw a line somewhere, stop the chain of humiliations and reclaim its honor.

And I will be damned before I let this arrogant little prick of a captain dictate terms to me, by God, she thought harshly. No. Not this time, Captain Zavala!
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
*
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:02 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2121
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
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Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 44

"Captain Diadoro." She never took her eyes from Zavala's face and raised her voice enough to be sure the Manticoran could hear her.

"Yes, Ma'am?"

"We will maintain this course and acceleration. Prepare to engage the enemy," Vice Admiral Oxana Dubroskaya said, and cut the com connection.

* * *

"Well, so much for that," Jacob Zavala said, turning away as Dubroskaya's image disappeared from his own com.

"Hard to blame her in some ways, I suppose, Sir," Auerbach said. Zavala arched an eyebrow at him, and the chief of staff smiled crookedly. "All she can have at this point about Spindle are rumors, if that. And it'd take somebody with a lot more imagination than we've seen out of any of the Sollies yet to really believe five tincans could take out four battlecruisers on the basis of rumors. For that matter, most of our officers would refuse to believe it if we were looking at it from the Sollies' perspective. I mean, on the face of it, it's ridiculous."

"I'll grant you it would take at least a soupçon of imagination," Zavala acknowledged. "On the other hand, Dubroskaya sure as hell knows about New Tuscany, and she ought to be asking herself just how it was we came out on top there. And she damned sure ought to be asking herself why I'd have kept right on coming if I had any doubt of my ability to take her out."

"Can't argue with that, Sir. I'll bet you it's going to take all the Sollies a while to figure it out, though."

"Well, this bunch of Sollies had better start figuring it out in a hurry," Zavala said grimly.

* * *

"Point Alpha in fifteen seconds, Ma'am," Abigail Hearns said quietly, looking into her plot and remembering another force of Solarian battlecruisers and the massacre of Tristram's division mates in New Tuscany. The range had dropped to thirty-eight million kilometers, and the closing velocity was down to 23,819 KPS.

Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, a voice said quietly in the back of her mind. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near and their doom is coming quickly.

Abigail Hearns had always preferred the love and gentleness of the New Testament, but this was an Old Testament moment, and her eyes were intent and her hands steady on her tactical console.

"Stand by to engage," Naomi Kaplan replied.

* * *

The Roland was the first destroyer class ever built to fire the Mark 16 dual-drive missile. That was the reason it was bigger than many navies' light cruisers. And it was also the reason for some of the peculiarities of its design. Like the reason it had "only" twelve missile tubes, and all of them were arranged as chase armament, mounted in the hammerheads of its hull. And the reason it had so much more fire control than any other destroyer in space. It was designed to fire "off bore," spitting missiles out of its "chase armament" to permit all its tubes to engage targets in both of a traditional ship's broadside arcs. And its fire control redundancy was designed to let it "stack" salvos with staggered drive activations, the same way the much larger and more powerful Saganami-C-class heavy cruisers did. The Roland couldn't control as many missiles as the Saganami-C; it was less than half the heavy cruiser's size, and there were limits in everything. But it could stack a double salvo of twenty-four missiles, which was better than twice Captain Kelvin Diadoro's worst-case estimate…and each of those missiles was just as deadly as anything a Saganami-C could have fired.

* * *

"Missile launch!" one of Diadoro's tactical techs announced suddenly. "Multiple missile launches at three-six-point-seven million kilometers! CIC confirms one hundred and twenty -- repeat, one two zero -- missiles inbound. Acceleration forty-six thousand gravities! Time of flight at constant acceleration five-point-niner minutes!"

Oxana Dubroskaya stiffened in disbelief at CIC's shocking acceleration numbers. That was sixteen hundred gravities lower than a Javelin, but a Javelin's maximum powered endurance at that rate was only three minutes, with a terminal velocity of 84,000 KPS from rest and a powered envelope of only 7,575,930 kilometers. If the Manties could maintain that accel for six minutes, they really could engage her ships at this preposterous range!

That was her first thought, but an instant later the number of missiles registered, and she paled. A hundred and twenty?! That was ridiculous! No light cruiser could fire that many missiles in a single broadside! There wasn't enough hull length to mount the damned tubes!

"Check those numbers!" she heard Diadoro snap.

"CIC confirms, Sir." The tech's voice was hoarse but steady. "Tracking's confidence is high."

"My God," someone murmured very quietly.

"Missile Defense Bravo!" Diadoro ordered.

"Missile Defense Bravo, aye, Sir!"

BatCruRon 491's ships altered course, turning their broadsides to face the incoming missiles to clear their missile defense systems' fields of fire.

* * *

Oxana Dubroskaya's and Kelvin Diadoro's calculations had been based on six erroneous estimates. They'd gotten one thing right when they assumed, correctly, that the missiles the Royal Manticoran Navy had used at New Tuscany had been fired from pods, but they'd been wrong when they assumed that only pod-launched missiles could have such extended range. And to compound that initial error, they'd assumed their counter missiles, point defense, and electronic warfare systems were as capable as those of Manticore. Just as they'd assumed Manticore's penetration aids would be no more capable than their own, a Manticoran launch cycle of thirty seconds, and that Rolands could fire broadsides of no more than ten missiles per ship. And, finally, they'd assumed their laser heads were heavier than anything a "light cruiser" could launch.

It wasn't really their fault, given the inevitable slowness of interstellar communication. They had no official reports about the Battle of Spindle. They hadn't heard anything from the scattered Solarian forces which had already encountered Manticoran war-fighting technology during the course of the Star Empire's Operation Lacoön. It might not have mattered if they had. The almost inevitable reaction of the Solarian League Navy in general to the sudden revelation that it was technologically inferior to any opponent had been a state of denial, and after so many centuries of unquestioned supremacy, it was going to take time for even the most flexible of its officers to realize just how inferior their hardware truly was. Yet without those reports, without word of what was happening in places like Nolan and Zunker, BatCruRon 491's errors had been almost unavoidable.

Which didn't make them one bit less deadly.

In fact, their launch cycle estimates had been six seconds low, but that was only because Zavala's destroyers were launching stacked broadsides. The cycle time on his launchers was only eighteen seconds, but sequencing doubled broadsides put thirty-six seconds between each incoming flight of missiles. Unfortunately for BatCruRon 491, it also meant each of those salvos was better than twice as large as Kelvin Diadoro's worst-case estimate.

The Mark 16s streaked through space, accelerating by over four hundred and fifty kilometers per second every second, building on their motherships' base velocity as they roared towards Vice Admiral Dubroskaya's battlecruisers. At that range, with that much time to build velocity, they would be closing at better than 180,500 KPS -- just over sixty percent of the speed of light -- when they entered the Solarians' missile defense envelope, and the Indefatigable class' software had never been intended to deal with incoming, evading targets closing at such ridiculous velocities.

Of course, that was only part of Battlecruiser Squadron 491's problems.

* * *

"Their Halo systems are active, Ma'am," Abigail Hearns announced, monitoring her displays closely. "CIC doesn't see any upgrades from what we observed at Spindle. The software tweaks seem to be handling it."

"Good," Naomi Kaplan replied, watching her own plot as a second wave of missile icons followed the first, thirty-six seconds and thirty thousand kilometers behind it, and a third followed. Then a fourth. In one minute and forty-eight seconds, DesRon 301 launched four hundred and eighty Mark 16s.

Given the differential in powered envelope, Zavalla's DDs could have fired twenty-six stacked broadsides (assuming they'd had anywhere near that much ammunition) before the Solarians had the range to engage it in turn, but he'd decided four -- one for each of Dubroskaya's ships -- should be enough to show her the error of her ways. And if it wasn't, there'd be plenty of time for additional launches to convince the surviving Solarians to see reason.

Assuming there are any surviving Solarians, of course, Kaplan thought with grim, vengeful satisfaction.

* * *

BatCruRon 491's missile defense officers watched those impossible salvos stream towards them. Deep inside, every one of them hoped -- prayed -- the Manticoran missiles would go ballistic at any moment. That they'd been launched from so far out because the Manties had panicked, or because the enemy still thought he could bluff them. But even deeper inside, they knew that hadn't happened.
*
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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Re: STICKY: Shadow of Freedom Snippets
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:05 pm

DrakBibliophile
Admiral

Posts: 2121
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois

The book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

Shadow Of Freedom - Snippet 45

The only good thing about the extended range was that it gave them plenty of time to track the incoming shipkillers. A missile's impeller wedge was hard to miss and impossible to disguise, and that was good, because the Manty missiles' sheer closing velocity was going to make them copper-plated bitches to stop. There wasn't going to be time for more than a single counter missile launch against each shipkiller, and anything the CMs missed was going to streak clear across the defensive basket and actually pass its target in only eight seconds. That meant their counter missiles needed the best targeting and tracking data they could possibly provide, because each laser cluster was going to have a maximum of one shot before the shipkillers overflew the squadron…and each battlecruiser could bring only sixteen clusters to bear.

"At least they're going to be generating a lower Delta Vee for evasions than a Javelin could, Ma'am," Tucker Kiernan murmured just loud enough for Dubroskaya to hear him. "That should help a little."

"Something better," Dubroskaya replied harshly, never looking away from the plot.

* * *

"Coming up on initial EW activation…now," Abigail announced.

* * *

Three hundred and forty-five seconds after launch, thirty-five million kilometers downrange from HMS Tristram, the electronic warfare platforms seeded throughout DesRon 301's lead missile salvo came to sudden life. They were carefully sequenced, the Dazzlers blowing holes in the Solarians' tracking systems, blinding them with furious strobes of interference, one thin sliver of an instant before the Dragon's Teeth spawned sudden shoals of false targets.

It came at the worst possible moment -- just as they crossed the perimeter of Vice Admiral Dubroskaya's counter missile envelope and half a heartbeat after the battlecruisers fired.

Fire control lost lock, throwing the CMs back onto their rudimentary seeking systems, but those onboard seekers had lost lock, as well. And when the Dazzlers faded, instead of a hundred and twenty incoming missiles, there were over five hundred. BatCruRon 491's pathetic total of thirty-two counter missiles managed to reacquire and kill exactly one actual shipkiller…and its point defense clusters had barely seven seconds in which to try to find the one hundred real laser heads buried in that blinding confusion before they reached their standoff detonation range of thirty thousand kilometers.

The lasers failed. The computers and human beings behind them were still fighting desperately to find their targets when a tsunami of thermonuclear explosions sent a hurricane of bomb-pumped lasers into SLNS Inexorable.

* * *

Missile fire had always become progressively less accurate as the target got further away from the firing ship and lightspeed lag began degrading the quality of the fire control information feeding the missiles' onboard computers. That creeping arthritis had thrown an ever greater load onto the missiles' more limited sensors and less capable computers as the range was extended, and the question of exactly when to cut the telemetry links and let the missiles look after themselves had been more of an art than a science, in many ways. That was the very reason the Royal Manticoran Navy had created Apollo, and the ability to control missiles -- and EW platforms -- in real time even when they were literally light-minutes downrange explained the deadly lethality of Manticoran multidrive missiles.

Under normal circumstances, DesRon 301 could have anticipated that a significant percentage of its missiles would have lost lock, been lured aside by decoys, fooled by jamming. But the circumstances weren't normal. First, the Ghost Rider platforms virtually on top of the Solarian battlecruisers did have FTL capability, which cut the effective communications lag between the squadron and its sensors in half. Second, Zavala had known his Dazzlers and Dragons Teeth were going to hammer Dubroskaya's missile defenses into ineffectuality, so his missiles hadn't been forced to engage in the last-minute evasion maneuvers normally required to squirm through the close-in fire of their targets' laser clusters. They'd been able to steady down sooner, maintain lock without losing sensor contact at a critical moment, and deploy their lasing rods further out, with more time to align themselves and stabilize before detonation.

But perhaps even more importantly, the Royal Manticoran Navy had captured well over half of Sandra Crandall's fleet intact at the Battle of Spindle. They'd examined the Solarian League Navy's latest electronic warfare systems in detail. They'd analyzed their capabilities, noted their parameters and their weaknesses. Manticoran tactical officers like Abigail Hearns and Alice Gabrowski had pored over copies of the SLN's technical and tactical manuals like misers gloating over the Philosopher's Stone. They'd even been able to run captured Solarian simulations from inside the Sollies' systems, doctrine, and hardware during the two-week voyage from Montana to Saltash.

BatCruRon 491 might as well not have had any ECM. In fact, it would have fared better if it hadn't, because its EW systems didn't fool a single incoming missile. Instead, the defenses which were supposed to protect those ships actually became homing beacons, helping their executioners find them, and the effectiveness of his squadron's fire astounded even Jacob Zavala.

* * *

Shock bleached Oxana Dubroskaya's face bone-white as hundreds of lasers ripped into Captain Borden McGillicuddy's ship.

The number of missiles, alone, had already made a mockery of her pre-engagement calculations. Their blinding speed, and the incredible power and effectiveness of the electronic warfare systems the Mark 16's onboard fusion plant made possible were even worse. She had no way of knowing her entire squadron's total defensive fire had destroyed only one shipkiller, but she knew it hadn't stopped many, and the survivors completely ignored the decoys of her deployed Halo platforms. They scorched in on Inexorable, and her stomach clenched in horrified disbelief as CIC's estimate of the laser heads' throughput appeared on her tactical plot's sidebar.

The Mark 16's original fifteen-megaton warhead had been more destructive than any destroyer or light cruiser missile ever previously deployed, although dealing with battlecruiser armor -- as Abigail Hearns had learned aboard HMS Hexapuma in the Monica System -- had pushed it to its limits. But Tristram and her sisters were equipped with the Mod G version, with a forty-megaton warhead and improved gravity generators. That increased its effectiveness by a factor of over five…which made it more powerful than the brand-new Trebuchet capital ship missile the Solarian League Navy had just begun to deploy.

Inexorable's armor had never been designed to face that sort of holocaust, and each of the ninety-nine Mark 16s which reached attack range carried six lasing rods. Five hundred and ninety-four x-ray lasers, each more destructive than anything a Solarian ship-of-the-wall could have thrown, stabbed out at McGillicuddy's ship. Perhaps a third of them wasted their fury on the impenetrable roof and floor of Inexorable's impeller wedge, but the others didn't. They punched through the battlecruiser's sidewalls with contemptuous ease, and armor shattered as the transfer energy blew into the ship's hull. The sidewalls and the radiation shielding inside them attenuated the lasers…slightly. Nothing could have stopped them, though, and eight hundred and fifty thousand tons of battlecruiser disintegrated in an incandescent flash like the heart of a star.

The entire attack, from the detonation of the first laser head to the last, took less than a second and a half. It was one terrible, blinding eruption of fury, crashing down upon its target like the fist of God. There was no time for life pods to launch. No time for small craft to escape the catastrophe. SLNS Vanquisher's CIC couldn't even differentiate between the individual lasers that ripped the life out of her consort and took Inexorable's entire ship's company with them.

* * *

"Tango One destroyed," Abigail Hearns heard her own voice report as the FTL Ghost Rider platforms updated her plot. "Tracking on Tango Two. Second salvo EW activation in…twenty-one seconds."

* * *

"Raise Zavala!" Oxana Dubroskaya barked. "Tell him we surrender!"

* * *

"Sir!" Lieutenant Wilson said suddenly. "They want to surrender!"

Jacob Zavala looked at Auerbach, and his nostrils flared.

"Put them on my display!" he snapped. An instant later, Vice Admiral Dubroskaya's face appeared before him. It was no longer the confident, angry face of a Solarian flag officer. It was ashen, the eyes huge.

"Captain --" she began over the Hermes buoy's faster-than-light channel, but a wave of his hand chopped her off.

"You're two light-minutes downrange, this link can't interface with my telemetry channels, and my birds don't have FTL links," he said sharply. "My next salvo's coming in less than ten seconds. It's already committed, and there are two more right behind it that I can't abort before they get there. Abandon immediately!"

Dubroskaya stared at him for one more moment, then wheeled from her own pickup.

"Abandon ship!" she shouted. "All units, abandon ship -- now!"

* * *

SLNS Paladin was Tango Four, the last ship on DesRon 301's targeting queue. She got three quarters of her personnel into life pods before she was destroyed, and SLNS Success managed to get almost half of her people out…but only one hundred and eleven of Vanquisher's two thousand crewmen escaped.

Vice Admiral Oxana Dubroskaya and her staff were not among them.
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Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
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Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
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