Tree of Liberty- Alternate Universe

Sometimes when you’re writing you have what you think is a great idea. As you go, you realize the idea is either A) just not going to work or B) terrible. This scene I wrote as the original opening to “Tree of Liberty” is one of those two.

One of the inspirations for the Aristeia series is the American Revolutionary period. Several characters serve as stand ins for historical figures.  For Saracasi, one associated historical figure  was John Paul Jones. In that light, I originally planned for Saracasi to take Audacious  and make a strike at the heart of Alliance territory, just like Jones did in British waters. It seemed like a cool adventure but that’s all it was, a cool adventure.

For a variety of reasons, this proved problematic for the rest of the story and the story ended up needing to go in a completely different direction. But I did write one scene and its kind of a fun scene (though completely unedited). Let’s see what happens when Saracasi and the Audacious show up in our home system and start looking for a fight near Jupiter…

 

Aristeia-3-Cover-Final

 

“There you have it, Captain.” Kaars Aerinstar said, “The Sol system, home of the Terran people, and core world of the Alliance.”

Saracasi Ocaitchi stood beside the former Alliance intelligence officer admiring the tactical hologram of the Sol system. All eyes on the bridge nervously watched the display, expecting an Alliance fleet to appear on it at any moment. Their ship, the Audacious, currently lay beyond the outer edge of the last planet’s orbit, out among the planetoids that hovered at the edge of most systems. Detection by any ship in the system would take hours due to the lightspeed limitation of sensor equipment.

Their journey from the Kreogh sector had been much shorter than she had ever expected. The hyperdrive had performed without a hitch, for a change, and they had arrived in under two months time. They had made a speed only previously achievable only by packet ships.

Kaars continued, “Eight planets, most with one or more moons. Only one naturally habitable world, though some terraforming efforts have been made on the fourth world of Mars. Approximately twenty billion inhabitants, though that is still only a fraction of the population we had before the Kravic invasion.

“Most valuable resources were stripped away then as well. Most industrial operations here are purely used in-system.” Kaars said, stopping for a moment to turn to Saracasi, “If you want to make an impact on the Alliance economy, this would not be the ideal place.”

Saracasi nodded, “We’re not here to make an economic impact. We’re just one ship, against the entire Alliance. No, we’re going for a psychological impact.”

Zooming in the navigational hologram, Saracasi studied the map. The Alliance had not slacked on the defenses for this system, but their fleet couldn’t be everywhere at once. Distress calls took time to travel moving only at the speed of light.

She focused on the largest gas giant in the system, Jupiter. Dozens of moons orbited the planet, many with mining or research facilities on them. Civilian traffic would likely be very high. Unfortunately, their map had very little details about military facilities.

“What are the defenses around Jupiter like?” she asked.

“I do not have any first hand knowledge.” Kaars admitted, “But there is at least one system guard station on Europa. Probably a half dozen patrol cutters. There might be a naval base, but I do not know.”

Frowning, Saracasi looked at the Terran. His information on this mission had so far been lacking. She had hoped for better from him. Though, she had to admit, his role as an intelligence officer in the Kreogh sector meant his information for Sol wouldn’t be very thorough.

“Are there any anti-matter production facilities in system?” she asked.

“I know of one on Luna, Terra’s moon. There might be more, but I just don’t know.” Kaars admitted, not sounding apologetic about his lack of information.

Saracasi nodded. Luna would be well defended, right in orbit of the Terran homeworld. I would not be an ideal target. She would have to wait to address their fuel needs for another time.

Looking again at Jupiter she noted the distance from it and Terra. Sixty light minutes. For more than half an hour they would only have local defense ships to contend with before any warships could arrive.

Making her decision she turned to her Ronid XO, Arzesaeth Ernebee, “Lieutenant, call the crew to battle stations.”

“Aye, Captain.” Arzesaeth replied. A moment later a warning klaxon sounded throughout the ship.

Saracasi waited patiently, counting down from two minutes in here head. They had drilled this procedure dozens of times during the journey. The crew had fought an Alliance taskforce with limited training and won. It was her intention that the next time they had to fight, it wouldn’t be such a close battle.

Crew members streamed onto the bridge, replacing some others as they assumed their assigned battle stations. Those that had been on watch, but whose duties placed them elsewhere during battle, raced out of the room. They always had the hardest time getting to their place, having to wait to be relieved.

Just a few seconds before she reached two minutes in her head, Arzesaeth reported, “All stations report ready, Captain.”

“Helm, set a course to jump us into orbit of Europa.” Saracasi ordered.

Saisee Traze, their Camari helmsman, acknowledged. A few minutes later he signaled that the jump was calculated. At this distance, it would be a very brief flight, much more akin to the jump than a standard hyperspace journey, despite the common slang.

“All hands, stand ready.” Saracasi said, “Jump.”

A momentary flash of nausea passed through her as the ship shifted out of real space and into hyperspace. Instead of easing, the feeling continued as they almost immediately shifted back into real space. Microjumps were the worst.

“Full sensor scan.” Saracasi ordered.

“Shields up, stand by weapons.” Arzesaeth shouted.

For a few moments the bridge became abuzz with activity as the crew carried out the process of securing from a hyperspace jump into a potentially hostile situation. For most ships, whose shields took several minutes to power up to full strength, it was a dangerous proposition jumping into a location blind. That was why most ships jumped a fair distance away from any potential targets.

“We’re reading a dozen different civilian craft within long range of our weapons. Several satellites. No positively identified military craft.” Tadashio, the Kowwokian operations officer, reported.

“Identify cargo and ownership of civilian craft. Find me a target owned by a company that does business in the Kreogh sector.” Saracasi ordered.

A minute passed and Tadashio replied, “I’m reading two freighters from Stellar Motors, they’re one of the companies with exclusive license to sell ground vehicles on Dantyne.”

“Perfect.” Saracasi said quietly. Louder she ordered, “Helm, intercept course on those freighters. Ops, are they hyperdrive capable?”

“Aye, Captain. Though they are deeper into Jupiter’s gravity well. No one’s jumping away from their present position. Including us.” Tadashio replied.

“Understood. Carry on Helm. XO, lock weapons and prepare to fire.”

Beside her, Arzesaeth acknowledged and issued the orders to the gun crews. Quietly he leaned over and whispered to her, “If Alliance warships show up, we’ll be unable to jump away that deep in the gravity well. It’s risky.”

“Coming her at all was risky. Hell, doing anything in this ship is risky.” Saracasi whispered back.

Despite the modifications, repairs and upgrades the Audacious had received she was still an experimental warship. A previously failed experiment. During a raid on an Alliance surplus ship depot on Roc 5, the Union had acquired the previously named FX-21. It had been dumped there more than twenty years before because the original design team had been unable to work out the flaws in the revolutionary shield and power system design. The ship had an amazing capacity for resisting battle damage; if it didn’t shut down or explode first.

“Captain, we’re being hailed by the system guard station on Europa.” Tadashio reported.

Saracasi ordered, “Put it on.”

“Unidentified vessel, this is Alliance Jupiter Guard Station. Identify yourself. You are on an unscheduled flight path.”

Saracasi gave a slight smile, but then caught herself, “Range to freighters?”

“Still outside ideal weapon’s range. But they have not deviated from their course.” Tadashio replied.

In the vacuum of space, weapon ranges were a complicated thing. Projectile weapons, once fired, would go forever, and hence technically had an unlimited range. Energy weapons, such as their main neutron blasters, would dissipate and lose cohesion in time, but that distance was still incredibly far. However, those only applied when targeting something that was not capable of altering it’s flight path.

Shooting at a planet or asteroid could be done from an extreme distance. If the planet was undefended and your math accurate, the weapon would hit its target, eventually. The further away from a target you were, the more time your target had to react. For spaceships, that included time to alter your course, and therefore not being where you had aimed your weapon.

Weapon ranges were therefore a complicated calculation based on the speed of the weapon fired, the distance involved, the relative velocity of the target, and the target’s ability to alter it’s vector. Shooting at a nimble fighter craft had a very narrow effective weapons range, due to the ability of the craft to change direction easily. A lumbering freighter, especially one unaware it was in danger, had a much longer range.

“TAO,” Saracasi said, addressing Arzesaeth in his combat duties as the ship’s tactical action officer. “Fire on Freighter 1. Shoot to disable engines.”

“Aye, Captain.” Arzesaeth replied before issuing orders to the ship’s gunners.

Saracasi waited for several tense moments as the weapons firing solution was updated and then the neutron blasts were released. Their travel time to the target felt like it dragged on for an eternity. Finally, the tactical display updated with new data.

“We have a hit.” Tadashio reported. “Freighter 1 is losing engine power. She is ballistic.”

“Okay,” Saracasi said taking a deep breath before addressing Tadashio, “Open a hailing frequency, full spectrum. I want everyone in the system to hear me.”

When the Kowwok gave her the nod she said, “Stellar Motors freighter, this it the Union warship Audacious. All vessels owned by companies doing illegal business in the Kreogh Sector are here by subject to confiscation under the articles of war. Surrender your vessel.”

Shutting down the comm., she whispered to Arzesaeth, “Well, if the Alliance wasn’t going to respond that first act of piracy, they sure will now.”

Her message had gone out on the full spectrum. Every radio in the system would pick it up in time. She noted the time on the clock. Sixty minutes before the closed naval base would receive it, assuming there were no warships out in the system closer. She figured a maximum of eighty minutes before Jupiter became surrounded by warships.

“How many ship’s are in the Terran defense fleet? 40, 50? Think they’ll send them all?” Arzesaeth mused, his tone attempting to be jovial but failing to conceal his concern.

“Not all of them.” Saracasi replied, her tone still quiet, “Some will be in maintenance. But you’re forgetting the regular system patrol craft.”

As if in response to her quiet statement, Tadashio called out, “Five patrol cutters launching from the base on Europa.”

Saracasi nodded. Cutters were the weakest form of capital ship, more akin to gunships in armament than a full capital ship. Their primary mission was system patrol, which required a larger power system and size than gunships; this allowed them to conduct their usual mission of civilian rescue operations. But they carried almost as much heavy weaponry as a corvette. One or two would be a trivial opponent for the Audacious. Five might not be.

“Helm, time to intercept to Freighter 1?”

“Twelve minutes until relative zero speed.” Saisee answered.

“Time to weapons range of the cutters?” She asked.

Tadashio responded immediately, apparently having already done the calculations, “Twenty minutes at present relative speeds, but once we match speeds with the freighter, we’ll be vulnerable immediately.”

“Understood.” Saracasi replied. The joys of physics, “Helm, alter course. Bring us about. TAO, retarget the cutters.”

The Audacious’ slowed her approach speed toward the disabled freighter. They would continue their current course for several more minutes until they could overcome their own inertia and begin moving the opposite direction. This was a tricky maneuver within the massive gravity well that Jupiter exerted, but they were still several hundred thousand kilometers from the gas giant. Europa still exerted more direct influence on them.

Saracasi shifted the tactical hologram, zooming in to a closer display of the cutters. They were arranged in a wide cross formation, giving each room to maneuver, but still allowing the entire squadron to target Audacious. Their biggest advantage was their need to only focus their fire on a single target, where Saracasi had five to choose from.

“Helm, prepare for a full burn along course one one seven mark three four. TAO, target cutter designated Epsilon when we alter course.” Saracasi ordered.

Currently they were on a straight on approach with the cutters. The course change would alter their approach angle to skirt along the edge of the cutter’s cross shape.

“Course ready.” Saisee said.

“TAO, all batteries commence firing on target’s Alpha and Delta.” Saracasi ordered. They were several minutes away from the ideal time to alter course. Might as well take a few pot shots to throw off the enemy.

“Enemy is firing.” Tadashio announced.

“Helm, evasive, but keep us in position.” Saracasi ordered. Keeping the ship in a position to engage in the next planned maneuver would limit Saisee’s ability to avoid the incoming fire. But she felt confident that at this range Audacious could hold up to the fire.

Blaster shots started to impact the Audacious’ shields but in an insufficient quantity to overcome the rapid regeneration. Half the shots were missing. Unfortunately, that proved true for the shots they fired. Despite having more targets to pick from, it did nothing to help their aim.

“Moderate shield damage to target Alpha.” Tadashio reported.

“Approaching optimal range.” Saisee informed her.

Saracasi nodded, “Execute maneuver.”

With all the power the engines could muster, Saisee added an angle to the ships current vector. They still continued getting closer to the cutters, but no longer were in the dead center of the field of fire. When the two groups passed each other, they would be within only a few thousand kilometers of cutter Epsilon; while two other cutters would have no angle of attack.

“Shifting target to cutter Epsilon.” Arzesaeth reported.

As the ships passed each other, Saracasi watched the holographic representation of blaster fire being exchanged. At this close range, despite the high relative velocities, most of their fire found it’s target. It did not take long before the tactical computer changed the icon for cutter Epsilon from a red threat to a yellow unknown.

“Epsilon is disabled. Main power system are down, no engine control, shields are offline.” Tadashio reported, triumph in his voice.

Saracasi suppressed a smile. It wouldn’t be appropriate to relish in their successful attack while there were still four more enemy ships. But it did feel good to know her crew had done their job well.

“Helm, Reverse thrust.” Saracasi ordered.

Saisee rotated the ship on it’s axis and fired the main engines, counteracting their inertia. They continued to fly away from the cutters at a high speed, but that dropped quickly as the cutters had also reversed their thrust. Watching the display, Saracasi calculated that they would be at a relative zero velocity to the cutters in under a minute. After that, they would start accelerating toward each other again.

“TAO, retarget Beta and Gamma but hold fire until the idle window”

The window of idle was a term used to describe the brief period when two ships changing speed reached a point when they were virtually motionless, relative to each other. During that window, targeting weapons became easier and maneuvering out of weapons fire became harder, due to the low relative velocity. It essentially became trying to dodge a blaster bolt from a dead standstill.

Arzesaeth counted down the time to the window for his gunners. At his order, they immediately unloaded every weapon the Audacious had. Having the weapons fire halted for the last minute had given all the guns enough time to recharge. The ship unleashed a deadly wave of energy.

At the same time the Arzesaeth ordered the guns fired, the gunners onboard the cutters did the same. A concentrated burst of fire flew through space from four different ships, converging onto the bow of the Audacious. With a pain as if she had been hit herself, Saracasi felt the shields weaken and one of the blasts impact onto the hull.

Another wave of blaster fire came right at the heels of the first. Fortunately, the damage had been minimal and the shields fully regenerated back to their full strength. Again, only neutron blast got through to damage the hull.

The cutters, were not so lucky. Unlike the Audacious with her excessively powerful antimatter reactor, the cutters operated on conventional fusion reactors. Powerful enough to run the ship’s with no problem, they had a finite output. The effort to fire the engines at full speed for deceleration, fire all their weapons, and maintain their shields proved to much for the reactors to handle. Something had to give. The cutter captains had made the choice to cut back on shield power.

The barrages of fire from the Audacious, even split between two cutters, proved enough to penetrate the weakened shields. Already far outclassed by the frigate, the fragile cutter’s shield failed to protect them for more than handful of blasts. By the time the window of idle has passed, only two cutters remained able to continue firing.

“Damage report.” Saracasi called, trying to keep her voice calm. Two blasts penetrating their shields could not have done to much damage. But they were two months away from the nearest safe harbor. Any damage could be serious.

All stations sent their reports to engineering and a minute later the ship’s chief engineer, Sheanna Coramont, answered Saracasi over the internal comm., “Minimal hull stress. Damage to the bow RCS cluster. Two sensor pallets not responding, but I suspect it’s just a fried relay. Main transceiver array computer was destroyed.”

Saracasi acknowledged the report, feeling relieved. The RCS cluster would make some maneuvers difficult and their targeting would be effected until the sensor relay was repaired. The transceiver computer was the most severe damage, but the least important. It allowed them to make coded and covert communications with other ships. Being alone, they had no need of that ability.

“The remaining two cutters are breaking off. They have altered course, Alpha heading toward cutter Epilson, Delta moving to assist Bravo and Gamma.” Arzesaeth reported, clicking his mandibles in triumph.

For a moment, Saracasi considered taking out the remaining two cutters. Destroying as much Alliance military hardware as possible was their primary objective. But the cutters would never be used against the Kreogh sector. They had very basic hyperdrives, their mission being entirely contained in one solar system.

She looked at the tactical display. The disabled freighter had continued to drift on it’s previous heading, in a high orbit of Jupiter. Gravitational forces would eventually pull the unpowered vessel down into the crushing arms of the gas giant, but that could take days or years.

The time on the clock jumped out at her. Twenty-eight minutes. Almost half of their time before the Alliance heard her announcement had elapsed. If she wanted to seize the freighter, they had to catch it, board it, repair it and then get to a safe distance outside Jupiter’s gravity well to make a jump to hyperspace.

The fight with the patrol cutters had done little damage, but it had cost them valuable time. Still, she thought, that delay had allowed them to heavily damaged three pseudo warships. That was not a small matter.

Right in the heart of the Alliance, a warship from the Union had come, done damage, and could now escape without reprisal. There would be no way the Alliance could cover this up.

Time remained and she could do a lot more damage. Would it be cowardly to run away this quickly? After they had achieved such a remarkable victory? Or would it look worse to wait until the navy arrived and then run?

“Helm, set a course after those cutters. TAO, prepare a firing solution. Ops, open a channel to cutter Alpha.” Saracasi ordered, making up her mind.

Tadashio gave her the signal and she lifted the microphone, “Alliance cutter, you are ordered to stand down and surrender your vessel. I give you five minutes to evacuate your crew. You will not get another warning.”

As Saracasi watched, Audacious moved closer to the group of two disabled and one functional cutter. Several tense minutes went by as she waited for a response to come from the Alliance vessel. As the deadline approached she started to think they would have another fight on their hands.

At almost the last second, escape pods began to stream away from the functional cutter. Saracasi waited an extra five minutes to ensure they reached a safe distance. Once satisfied she gave the order to destroy the ship.

That should make it clear that she had no fear of Alliance reprisal. Three ships disabled and one destroyed. The crew had survived so she felt no guilt.

“Helm, take us out of the gravity well. Set a random hyperspace course away from Sol.”

Now she had to plan her next attack.

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One Response to Tree of Liberty- Alternate Universe

  1. Caera says:

    It’s no wonder I like these books so much. Not only are they sci-fi but they’re American Revolution inspired, which is my other obsession. Best of both worlds! I really liked this little adventure. It’s nice to read it even if it didn’t wind up in the book. Deleted scenes aren’t just for DVD’s!

    You know, given the fact I get car sick driving my own vehicle, and motion sick watching certain movies in the theater, I don’t even want to think what hyperspace jumping would do to me…O.o