Gray Panthers: Earths Revenge (27 page)

Republic Ship Mut, Near Earth Space

5 Oct 2128

The crew of the Republic ship Mut was nervous. They had been using the FTL for almost ten days and everyone was sick to some degree. Now they were entering space that was at war and they had to make themselves known without being accidentally attacked. While confident they were superior to the humans as both warriors and technologically there was always something that could go wrong. Captain Kriss launched a drone towards Earth transmitting the message that the ship was from the Republic and was on a diplomatic mission. The emissaries for the first contact were going to be the Kust, an insectoid species. The creatures were inoffensive but seemed to get on the nerves of the crew as they were continuously argumentative over anything that came up. His crew; like himself were Rotes their lineage was from lizards and were easy to provoke.

The Arizona Space Ship Nike was the first ship to detect the probe. Admiral Butch Bad relayed the information to Dan straight away. Dan's instructions were to meet the ship with as many ships as he thought needed and escort it to orbit the moon until a delegation could be assembled to welcome them.

Butch signaled the Mut to establish an orbit around the moon with minimal view of Earth. Captain Kriss accepted the directions then replied with his dire warning from the Republic.

“Arizona Space Ship Nike, I have an emergency message to be passed on to your government. The fleet that had been en route to your planet has turned around and is heading back to their own space. There is instead a battle fleet being assembled that will reach Earth no less than two months. The battle fleets orders are to punish the humans for their audacious attitude in attacking and destroying two Libra ships that included one with a member of the royal family aboard. My own estimate is that it will consist of ten major war ships. The Libras are stretched thin in defending and controlling their newly conquered space. They also do not think of Earth as a serious threat. The Republic has informed the Libras that we may observe the war to ensure that the Libras still follow the rules of war set by the League of Planets that they are still officially members. Under the League of Planets laws, they may not attack major population centers that are undefended. First strike with weapons of mass destruction is also a crime. Offering to surrender then attacking is a crime. Attacking during an established ceasefire is a crime.”

“Mut, we have received the message and will pass it along to leadership as soon as possible. What are the chances of the Libra breaking the rules set by the League of Planets? What is the punishment they would receive for breaking the rules?” Butch asked.

“I would be surprised if they did not send long range weapons to destroy the planet before they even got there. They desperately need foot soldiers for their wars so probably thirty percent of the population will be destroyed before they really get busy. Even if they are convicted of war crimes, the Libra have enough seats on the League of Planets to exonerate them. Our being here in neutral space observing their operations will be a serious detractor as they would not want any witnesses.”

“So the Republic will come to our aide if they break the rules of war?” Butch asked.

“We must remain neutral in this war. Simply observers.”

“What if you were to conquer the planet before they got here and declared us property of the Republic?” Butch asked.

The insinuation went over the ship's Captain's head as he replied, “We wish to be friends and establish relations with your world, and we could never do that to you.”

“Thank you, Mut, Arizona Space Ship Nike closing communications for now.”

Later the Captain of the Mut briefed the delegates who were equally confused that Earth would fight the Libras but capitulate to the Republic. Humans were going to be a strange species to understand.

Gray Panther Head Quarters, Arizona

6 Oct 2128

Dan glanced around his office as the staff came in and took their seats at the conference table. For the umpteenth time he thought about how nice it would be to just be back mining in the desert. The conference table was now fully occupied with the additional seats surrounding the table also full. Dan sighed audibly as he rose from his desk to sit at the front of the table. Dan sat wearily down at the table and gave one last look around it. “I’m going to assume everyone here is up to date on the new status for the Libra fleet. We have four ships to take on a fleet of possibly twenty war ships. How soon can we get anything from any of our ship building allies?”

Wolfgang Bauer, the only civilian at the table rose. “The four original ships in Korea and Japan could possibly be ready in just under three months. With our experience it now takes an average of six months to modify ships for space use. All other projects are still at the first level of stripping down the ships. The earliest I expect any of those will be in February. I will see what we can do to expedite construction, whatever it takes.”

Abbey listened to Wolfgang complete his assessment. He rose as the speaker sat. Taking only a moment to check his numbers he was ready. “We will have four hundred thousand shuttles by the end of next month. Half of those are in use by civilians. We have extended facilities ready to modify those shuttles. We should get them ready as soon as possible.”

Colonel Rhodes used that for his opportunity to speak. Rising he began to contribute to the information being briefed.

“The last time we were attacked we had one hundred thousand shuttles engage. We had less than three hundred of those piloted by humans. The rest of the shuttles were given their instructions and attacked autonomously. We now have two thousand pilots. There is no real difference in quality between humans and AIs except the AIs are faster. I plan to use the piloted ships as the nucleus of groups with the AIs under them. There will still be a huge number of flights that will have to be led by AIs.”

Admiral Bad’s avatar materialized showing him standing at the end of the table. The look on his face was one of disgust.

“It looks like the deck is stacked against us again. This time we are not going to be as lucky. They are going to be ready for anything we plan. I recommend we find their assembly area and attack with all our ships and as many shuttles we can carry. Give them a good bloody nose and they will wait until they have a stronger force to attack us with. That may give us the time we need to get our ships in service then we will be able to hold our own against them. After we attack the assembly area, we will pull out and leave the Beater behind to do hit and run attacks against soft targets until the commander determines it’s time to return. Hopefully with updated intel.”

General Black felt more optimistic than those around him as he stood. “We are going to kick some serious alien ass. We have major beamer batteries all around the world. Rail guns are thicker than forests. That doesn’t include everything we have ready on the moon. Let the sums a bitches come.”

Dan was grinning after listening to Black Jack's views. He stood and looked at everyone at the table. Taking a minute to collect his thoughts he then began to explain what needed to be done. “We are going to make it a bitch for the Libras. Butch, you will depart as soon as possible with everything you can take with you. Give them that Bloody nose and then leave the Beater behind to continue to piss them off. See if it’s possible to attach unmanned shuttles to her exterior so she has that much more of a punch. If you hit heavy initial resistance use your FTL to find a new spot to hit’em hard. From the reports we got from the Beater I suggest you put all of the crews in stasis while en route there using the FTL. You want to be in fighting condition when you drop into regular space. Black Jack, I want you to review our defenses and see if there's any additional surprises we can prepare for our incoming guests. Abby and Wolfgang, light a fire under the ship builders. Anything that we can do to speed them up let's get it done. Under no circumstances does anyone mention Dixie. If we fail, I want them to have the opportunity to survive. They could be man's last chance in the universe. If you will excuse me now I need to talk with the president and then the entourage from the Republic.”

Half an hour later, Dan was in conference with President Sigmund Goldstein and Governor Sigmund Goldstein Jr. He reviewed the meeting he had just had and the plans going forward. “I think we should let the world know the Libra are on the way and get the alert conditions for every country elevated. There is also a diplomatic delegation that wants to establish contact with a world government. They are from the Republic I briefed you on before. They might be able to accept us into their Republic, then we would be protected. We have something they want because they have already given us quite a bit of intel. They are also no friend of the Libras. Do you want to meet with them or do you want to allow the United Nations to negotiate with them?”

Sigmund looked at Dan with a look of resignation. His head hurting from trying to comprehend everything he had just been briefed on. He also felt relief because Dan seemed to be on top of everything and would be his fall guy if they failed or the price was too heavy.

“Dan, just give the information to my staff and I’ll let them coordinate a time and place. Can you provide a location on the moon for the meeting? I prefer the media not know anything this early. What do you think they want from us?”

“Very good, Mr. President. I think they want to get natural resources from us and they also need Flem technology. We are the only ones besides the Flem who can make a class one AI and the Republic needs them. I believe the Republic will negotiate in good faith but they lack imagination and are too rigid in their thinking, that’s why the Flem were lost. I will have a facility set aside for your negotiations sir. Is there anything else I can do?”

“Thank you, Dan, I appreciate the burden you have put on your shoulders. If there's anything I can do to help you please let me know. For the time being I do not want the United Nations to know about our visitor.”

Gray Panther Space Port, Arizona

8 Oct 2128

Commander Johnson was quietly watching as the crew boarded. Orders had been sent to them explaining the mission. From the crews solemn looks it must appear to them like it did to him, a one way mission. Their orders were to launch into orbit then receive twenty shuttles that would attach to the exterior hull. The ship would then proceed to use their FTL drive to the midway point. They would then proceed to the Libra Alliance planet, Woss. That was the nearest planet in the alliance closest to Earth. The planet was also the Libra Fleet's main anchorage and headquarters. The Beater was to attack in conjunction with Admiral Bad's squadron of four ships. After the attack, the Beater was to be detached to attack at Captain's discretion. The two main objectives were to keep the Libra off balance and to gain any intel they could bring back. It was Captain's discretion for when to return. Lieutenant Andrews stopped as he was entering the ship he was smiling as he asked his question of the Captain. “Sir, with the way the orders read I was wondering if you got a Letter of Marque?” Commander Johnson looked at the smiling lieutenant.

“I guess you are asking since the profits would be spread among the crew. The only problem is that we are a ship of the line and do not need a Letter of Marque. Who knows, there might be prize money for us on this mission if we survive and have an Earth to return to. Thank you for the suggestion, Matt.” Johnson walked to a side cabin for privacy. “Beater connect me with the Mut Captain please.”

“Captain Johnson, this is Captain Kriss how may I be of help?”

“Captain Kriss, I had a question about what the law says about if I were going to sell a ship I captured from a combatant planet. Could I take that ship to the Republic to sell it and her cargo as a war trophy?”

“Captain Johnson, the Libra did that routinely in their war of conquest. The response of the Republic is that only the planet Dirt is allowed to resell ships that were captured through military operations. The Republic government acts as the sole agent. It offers the original planet of origin the option to buy the ship before it goes up for auction. The government sometimes will deny permission for the sale and pay fair market value for the ship or cargo for its own use. Are you planning to sell the Arizona Space Ship Beater?”

“Thank you, Captain Kriss, I just wanted to know our options. Closing communications.”

“Commander Johnson, crew is aboard and ship is ready for launch,” LCDR Poland commed.

“Go ahead and take her up, commander Poland. Let me know when we rendezvous with the additional shuttles.”

Admiral Bad was in good spirits in one hour he would be launching the first galactic offensive in Earth’s history. All self-doubt was gone and it was contagious throughout the entire crew. Earth was going to serve up some whup ass on the aliens who had attacked Earth. Every ship was receiving as many shuttles as could be loaded or attached to their exteriors.

“Admiral Bad to the fleet, we set forth leaving our galaxy for only the second time. We go not for discovery or exploration, we go for vengeance. We will find our enemy and destroy him. We will depart on our mission in one hour. We will be victorious in our mission. Admiral Bad out.”

Poland watched as almost every open area on the exterior of the ship was filled with shuttles until Beater announced they had twenty.

“Commander Johnson, we have our shuttles and are ready to depart. What are your orders, sir?”

“Set course for Libra space when I get to the bridge we will engage the FTL drive.” The Beater maneuvered at maximum thruster to make space away from the other ships that were still taking on shuttles. The crew was completing the last of the system checks. The alarms sounded as Beater announced, “Two ships are emerging into normal space. They appear to be a pair of Libra Cruisers.”

“Sound Battle stations, alert the fleet, launch all external shuttles ten for each cruiser. All weapons fire when you have a target. Polarize the hull and increase the power to shields. Pilot, try to get us between the two ships and keep dodging. Dart flight launch as soon as you can,” Poland ordered without giving it any second thought.

Commander Johnson felt helpless as his ship prepared then engaged in combat as he tried to pull his flight suit back on and get out of the head.

Admiral Bad was caught off-guard as he received the message that there were two enemy cruisers and that the Beater had already engaged them and was distracting them.

“This is Admiral Bad. Bia, take Cornucopia as your wingman and engage target two. Phoenix, you are with me. All ships try not to hit Beater.”

The four ships quickly closed on the two cruisers while launching their shuttles. Neither cruiser fired on the Beater as it started to draw first blood. Arizona Space Ship Beater positioned itself so the first cruiser was above it, making it possible to fire both port and starboard batteries at the same target. Guns was trying to figure where a good point was to aim his rail gun when he cursed to himself. “Beater, where should I be firing for best results on our target?”

“Initial analysis suggests the very center of the ship. Recommend concentrating all fire there.”

“Hey, Jimmy, did you hear that?” Guns hollered.

“Copy, Guns, aiming for center mass!” Jimmy replied

Portions of the middle center started to fall off each cruiser as both ships engaged their FTL drives. Admiral Bad watched as both ships disappeared as the fire was finally being properly concentrated. Both ships reappeared closer to Earth as all ships adjusted course to reengage again. “Nike, I don’t want to go through this again damn it. Tell us where to fire and when.” Control panels showed they had received minor damage even though nothing was felt.

Commander Johnson managed to get to the flight deck. Poland briefed him in under two minutes as Johnson took control ordering the Beater to jump using the FTL 150 miles closer to Earth to engage the enemy cruisers.

“Bad to fleet, everyone maneuver on your own use the FTL to avoid incoming as needed. Good hunting.”

The space was now full of shuttles as they looked for targets. The Arizona Space Ship Bia jumped a hundred miles closer to Earth and found itself next to a cruiser. Both ships started to pummel each other as Red Erickson realized they were too close to each other to use their FTL drives.

“Bia to fleet, if you get up close to the bastards they can’t jump. Anyone want to help me gut this fish? He ain’t going anywhere!” Looking at his pilot he continued, “Let's grab the bastard by his belt! Get as close to him as you can. If you scratch the paint I won’t say anything. All phalanx batteries and rail guns that were in position was making an impression as the cruiser no longer tried to maneuver. The beamers were no less effective as the cruiser seemed to be venting atmosphere from hundreds of locations. “Bia, try to contact our target to see if they want to surrender. She looks dead, but could be playing opossum."

The second cruiser jumped again and materialized with a shuttle in the side of the ship as it stopped all maneuvering. It immediately broadcast its intent to surrender. Nike launched a dozen shuttles with Gray Panthers to board the ship. Red was not getting any response from his cruiser as he launched ten shuttles to board his cruiser. Reds team were the first to report back that the ship seemed dead and that there was no atmosphere. The shuttle locked on to the hatchway to the cruiser but continued to show a red light for atmosphere. Lieutenant Cross ordered his team to do one last check of their suits before opening the hatch. Cross also ensured the entire team had turned on their magnetic boots. The hatch opened to complete blackness except for where the lights from the gray panther's suits showed. The lights showed a thick cloud that seemed to be moving on its own.

“Everyone stay chilly. Sgt Vine, take four men to the left and go one hundred yards; no heroics! Everyone else is with me. Corporal Woods, lead the way; there is no rush. We don’t want any surprises,” Lt. Cross ordered. The passageway was painted black. It was wide and high. After thirty feet they found the first body floating in the passageway.

“Sir found a body, looks like its six foot tall, two arms, two legs, huge head. Skin appears black and very wet. Face has two eyes that look like they melted a hole where our nose is. The mouth is tiny looks like an “o." Body is dressed in a black suit covering the entire torso.” Sgt. Vine reported.

“Good work, Sgt. Vine, keep on searching your area.” Lt. Cross ordered as he continued walking through the swirling cloud. Cross stopped and unzipped his pocket zipper and pulled out an old food wrapper and dropped it. It immediately flew straight ahead of them as Cross realized why the cloud was moving so rapidly.

“It looks like we have a serious vacuum here. I dropped a wrapper and it flew straight away from me. Be sure you do not step off into space while you are walking through the clouds. I don’t need the extra paperwork,” Cross briefed.

Red monitored the crews searching the cruiser as he received damage reports. Huge areas of the ship had sustained damage while exchanging blows with the cruiser. All damage was centered towards the center elevated areas that were set aside for carrying troops. The area was empty and no vital areas were affected except for weapon platforms that could easily be replaced.

Nikes boarding party connected to a hatchway and when they entered were met by crewmen anxious to get off the ship. The hatch opened as the boarding party found themselves facing hundreds of crewmen wearing full suits with helmets covering their faces. The aliens were all between six foot to eight foot tall. They all stood in place but rocked back and forth nervously between their left and right foot. Through their translators they explained the ship had jumped and when it dropped back into normal space it materialized with a shuttle in a key structural area that could break the ship in half at any moment. The next shuttle to connect to the stricken ship included droids to find any terminals and start downloading the ships data as soon as possible. Lieutenant Mix tried to converse with the nearest alien.

“How many crewmen are on your ship? I need to know so we can get everyone off.” The alien just stood there rocking. Mix grabbed the alien and forced him into the shuttle as the others grasped what was happening and started a stampede to get into the shuttle. The Gray Panthers had to use their fists and beamers as clubs to stop the rush as the shuttle closed the hatch and departed. A new shuttle docked that was empty as the Libras seemed less excited and boarded more orderly. A pair of droids walked through the crowd asking the location of computer terminals as the aliens cleared passage for them, but not answering. Frustrated at the silence, Lt. Mix grabbed a Libra and set his volume to its loudest setting. “If someone does not talk to me in five seconds we will leave you all here to die!”

“Excellency, we have been ordered to not speak to our enemy,” A towering alien stated.

“We are not your enemy if we are trying to save your lives are we? Now how many crewman are there for us to save. Where is there a computer terminal so we can check how safe the ship is? Now, friend, answer the questions or we will have to leave because we are not safe!” The Lieutenant argued.

The alien stood for a minute and seemed to rock even faster. “Our crew is four hundred. There is an engineering station down that passage way and then to the left,” the alien said pointing. The blast from a hand laser melted through a dozen of the cruiser's crew as one of the cruisers officers tried to get to the shuttle. The rest of the crew pounced on the officer ripping off his helmet then turning his face to mush as they pummeled him to death.

“Nike, team one.”

“Go ahead team one.”

“We need as many shuttles as possible, we are losing control with the prisoners rioting against their officers. Ship's crew is four hundred. Our droids should he connected to the ships computer soon,” Lt. Mix reported.

“We already have shuttles lining up to evacuate the crew for both ships. It’s going to take a while when we can only get twenty at a time per shuttle. Nike out.”

Admiral Bad ordered the fleet to report all damage and was surprised when he learned only the Bia had even remotely serious damage. “Bia, you are to return to Earth and begin repairs. Cornucopia will replace you for the rescue operations,” Bad ordered.

“Understood, sir. I think we killed the bastards and it’s a salvage mission now, not a rescue mission. Bia will withdrawal when our shuttles have returned from the cruiser.”

“Permission to withdrawal after recovering shuttles approved. Keep an eye on the SOB, nothing dies that easily. Nike out.”

A shudder was felt throughout the cruiser as the power for the emergency systems was lost. Lt. Cross looked at his men as they began to notice the bulkhead seemed to flex. “I think this place is turning to shit fast so keep your eyes open. Bia, this is team one.”

“Team one, go ahead.”

“It looks like we just lost the last of any emergency power. Suggest we evacuate boarding crews and use droids instead as we have found no survivors,” Lt. Cross reported.

Red thought for a moment then gave the orders, “All boarding crews return to ship. Droids will continue operations.”

Admiral Bad reviewed everything that had happened and was surprised. The entire engagement had lasted ten minutes. Only one major ship had received any damage. One hundred eighty shuttles were lost.

“Peary Crater Lunar Base, this is Arizona Space Ship Nike”

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