Immediately following the raid on Viamanys the Eutopian’s started work on a new combat android. The Euoth-Rehberg type 23. Combat android development had been stagnant for the past few decades. No one was dumb enough to sell them to Earth governments and no one else was interested in buying them until the war broke out. The new androids were an interesting design. Titanium-carbon internal skeleton, an internal zero point reactor. Skinned entirely with Ultra-fiber. Full sensor suite and the capability to install miniaturized versions of every sort of weapon available. Seven and a half feet tall it looked like it would be an effective countermeasure against imperial ground forces.
Other militaries kept their super soldier programs under wraps. I seriously doubted any of them would be ready by the time the war was over. No, those would be for when they decided to go into enemy planets and burn everything to the ground, plant their respective flag and start building their own little empires in the stars.
I already had my own super soldiers. The Angel Weapons System. By now I had about 250 volunteers who, following the disaster in Rhodesia. Proven themselves in several small operations. I needed more volunteers. Making more suits was a formality of filling out a few forms. I could put in a request for volunteers on Earth. But that would require training in military affairs in addition to the already difficult process that was the use of 5meoDMT.
I had one of my company lawyers write up a contract for the surviving marines of the USMC. (Yes, to my eternal shame, I allowed the infection that is lawyers to escape our solar system!) Essentially it was a buyout. The IEC would take over their service contracts, increase their pay by 20% and provide them with 5meo treatments. Angel Suits and other advanced weapons in exchange for service. I would also provide any legal services needed to avoid charges like desertion or even treason.
Within an hour of my delivery of the contract General Butler was pounding in the door to my stateroom on the Montana. I let him in and he slammed the offending document on my desk. “What the hell is this? Buy out our contracts with the government? pump my men full of some insane Martian drug? If you weren’t a woman I would knock your teeth out right now.”
“Well, that’s a rather rude thing to say to someone offering you all this.”
“Offering? This is an offer to turn my men into mercenaries.”
“Well, it’s not like you haven’t done that sort of thing before. By your own admission, you served corporate interests in south and Central America.”
“Yes, and I blew the whistle on that.”
“Blew the whistle my foot! You and your men got chased out when the Eutopian’s made it too difficult to force crony capitalism down the locals, collective throats. Then that same bunch of assholes that swept Edison into the White House figured that they would try again with you in the catbird seat. But you said no, then you outed them, crushing what was left of that conspiracy. Now the only reason why you and your men are out here is because your paymasters dragged you out of retirement because they want a share of the glory. But they aren’t going to get any. Your equipment is so obsolete that for all intents and purposes they sent you on a suicide mission.”
“Which leads me to wonder. Did you say no to the coup out of patriotism for the system that tolerates, nay encourages these shenanigans? Or did you say no because you knew I would be waiting? To cut through what was left of the US military like cardboard. Land in the Rose garden just like my father did and end this system once and for all?”
He breathed heavily. His features were mangled into a snarling portent of unspeakable rage. I watched his hand tremble for a moment. He really wanted to punch me. So I leaned back and stated. “Just remember, it’s your decision. I can’t force you to do anything. Just know that you and yours are out of the war for the duration if you say no.”
He continued to snarl, then he pulled back and stated through gritted teeth. “I will need some time to consider your offer.”
“Thank you, that’s all I ask is that you consider it. Take all the time you need.”
As he stomped off of my ship one of my Volunteers, attracted by the sounds of Butler’s ranting and stomping walked up to my front door. Travis Fallon, not all that long ago he had been a security guard at the IEC. Now he was what passed for an officer in the AWS program. Blonde haired, rugged looking guy who looked like he should have been driving a sailboat around Cape Horn. He took one last glance at the general and stated.
“So, I assume he did not take too kindly to our generous offer?”
“I believe he stated that if I was not a woman that he would have knocked my teeth out.”
He sucked air through his teeth then observed. “Well, that’s not the craziest reaction to this program I have heard of.”
“Hmm, I’ll say, ‘ah what are they doing!? Lizard people, you are all lizard people!’ I think that’s what you said at your first dosing?”
“Yeah, yeah, yuk it up. You know I saw things.”
“That’s the whole point is that you see things. You see things how they are. But your ego wasn’t willing to let go just yet. So you went on a bad trip.”
“Yes, and if it hadn’t been for the promise of power associated with using this suit I would have resigned from the IEC forever and become a bean farmer in Argentina or something. 5meo is not a toy, and perhaps you are making a mistake allowing it to be splashed around like this.”
“I know 5meo use must be done with the utmost care. But damn it, we are in a war. We need more people who can wear the suits. It’s not just 5meo, it’s the weapons we are using, the battle itself. Humanity needs to grow up, and fast. Or else we are going to start sliding back into slavery. It took a lot of work for us to get to where we are. It will take more work just to maintain our position. We cannot afford to just maintain, we need to move forward.”
He sighed and changed the subject somewhat.
“Do you really think Butler will take the deal?”
I thought for a good minute before I answered.
“People tend to think of marines as vicious dogs of war. But everyone I have met seems to have a degree of intelligence that one would not expect. A degree of creativity that is hard to quantify. Granted this creativity is usually directed in destructive directions. But they tend to be much smarter than people give them credit for.”
“In any case, Butler matters, but his men matter more. Wether he goes along with us or not. The rest of the marines know about my offer and will act according to their own free will. Might take a little while, but I don’t think those guys are going to be content with just sitting on the sidelines in the middle of this inferno.”
After a few days various important documents captured on Viamanys had been processed and condensed into useful information. The main fleet commanders gathered in the black marble castle outside the launch facility we had captured. It had somehow acquired the nickname of Coal Castle. By now it was the de facto joint fleet headquarters. I had run out of space on the Montana. So I had made myself an office in the castle. As had most of the other fleet commanders. Every few days we met in the central feasting hall to share information.
The strategic information provided further confirmation and clarification of intelligence from the Zilnj and Eutopian reconnaissance. Beyond that this report provided an insight into the plutocrats who ran this society. They were physically different from their slave population or their military. Many were incredibly old. The younger ones had the habit of being morbidly obese. They loved to dress up in absurd costumes and wear lots of makeup. Pretty typical behavior for various rich and corrupt societies throughout the centuries. What was not typical was the secret to their long lives.
The entire fleet command staff had gathered for a presentation by the commander of the Royal Netherlands Marines. He had just completed a detailed report on the biology, genetic makeup and medical technologies of our enemy. He introduced himself, as colonel Geert Osterbruk. Before the war he had been a marine reservist and world class genetic researcher. Following the capture of the Zilnj his unique skill set had placed him near the top of his government’s war effort.
He started the conference with a shocking revelation. It had been assumed that the bizarre appearance of enemy staff was due to genetic engineering. The splicing of various creatures DNA into the human genome. Colonel Osterbruk had conclusively proven that this was not true. The empire had created these monstrosities out of what was already available in the human genome by carefully turning on and off various parts of so called junk DNA.
Genome research had stalled out on Earth and Eutopos following the discovery of the vast Venusian Archive entries on genetics. Decades after discovery scientists all over the solar system had yet to process all of the information found there. It certainly appeared that the Drankmastarians had even better information.
Basic instructions on the blending of technology with biology had already been used to transform the bulk of Eutopian’s into cyborgs. Technology, with a splash of biology was still the most popular way to enhance humans. Combining the DNA of various life forms to create better versions of said life forms was impractical, clumsy and downright dangerous in a variety of ways. Now it seemed that it was unnecessary. Most of what was needed to create an alternate version of a human was already there in the genome. Just waiting to be switched on or off. Though Drankmastarian medical technology was not just limited to tinkering with the genome.
I couldn’t help but stare at the photograph on page twenty seven of Osterbruk’s report. Despite all the shocking things I had seen so far in this messed up galaxy, somehow this was a step too far. An act of madness that I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around. The look on this poor creatures faces was heartbreaking. I did not know it was possible to feel compassion for something so alien. There were a dozen of these lizard people hanging upside down in what looked like torture apparatuses with all manner of IVs running from their veins. Lizard people, goddamned live lizard people! Fallon’s hallucination made flesh and it was even worse than I imagined. And I was just looking at a photo! Whatever he had seen had been right in his face. The job of Argentine bean farmer seemed much more appealing than it had a few minutes ago. The words fell out of my mouth.
“I am reading this, but I just can’t comprehend it colonel. Why are our enemies harvesting the blood of lizard people?”
“From what I was able to understand from the doctors we captured. These reptilian creatures are a species native to this region of space. Not dropped here by the energy disaster like the human population was. We found 200 in the facility. This dozen being harvested and the rest in jail cells. Their blood and bone marrow possess unique qualities. A combination of an incredible healing ability along with an utterly unprecedented ability to facilitate the blending of foreign tissues together.”
Admiral Halsey stated brusquely, “in English you Dutch bastard!”
“Very well, it means that even if you are horribly wounded, dying of as yet incurable diseases all you have to do is take a dose of this creatures blood to flush all the illness out of your system. If you have suffered organ loss or had an arm blown off you simply need a replacement part and this creatures bone marrow will clean all foreign DNA out of the replacement. Eliminating the problem of graft rejecting host, in a most unusual way.”
This was mind boggling. The Eutopian’s and even the Martians had the technology to simply grow or print new limbs and organs. This was like some kind of messed up blending of magic and science. I asked.
“Are they sentient?”
“It appears so, they understood my commands well enough. Though they haven’t spoken. I don’t know yet if they can speak, when my squad unhooked them from the harvesting machines their expressions seemed genuinely grateful.”
He passed around another bunch of photos. The lizards were extending their hands to the Dutch marines like begging supplicants. Their fingers showed signs of once having talons that had been surgically removed. I really had to fight to keep from throwing up at that image.
Captain Stipetic asked the inevitable question.
“What is to be done with these creatures?”
“I believe that as we capture more secure enemy bases we will find more of these lizards. I would be very surprised if what we found here amounts to their entire population. I think they should be secured on a remote planet with limited or no human populace until we have a greater understanding of what they are. So far all we really know is that their blood is medicinal to every creature that we have used it on. I think that they represent too great a temptation for medical researchers to send them back to Earth or even keep them around the fleet. I think they have suffered enough.”
“As for their biology. They are cold blooded and have a diet of various types of bugs. We are bound to find out more information about them and perhaps in time they can be integrated into our society. Although I can’t imagine what they could offer in our current situation. Their hands are not dexterous enough to use our weapons. In unarmed combat they might look scary, but they seem mostly harmless. I don’t think they would be a useful ally in this conflict and with the possible exception of a few screwballs in the Auxiliary Fleet I don’t think anyone here wants to take a transfusion of lizard blood.”
I put the report face down on the table. I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. I observed. “Especially knowing where it came from. What other information is there to report?”
Santander spoke. “Unfortunately it seems that Viamanys is not the only Capitol of the empire. Somewhat like the late Roman Empire, they have distributed their industrial, economic and bureaucratic among separate locations. The Romans had two, Constantinople and Rome. These guys have four. I have preliminary targeting information on two more and I think we will find the last one relatively soon. I’m sorry to say that this war will not be over as soon as we all hoped.”
I looked up at the collection of commanders in my presence and those who were just on teleconference screens. I stated, “okay, I think we have learned enough from our survey of the horrors of planet Viamanys. I think we have aquired as much intelligence as we need for now on our enemies. We need to fortify our position here in the Ristavron system. Dig in so deep that the imperials will never be able to root us out. Once we have a secure position here we go after them with everything we got. Kill or capture as many of their ships as possible. Disrupt their supply lines, raid or destroy their major bases. Then once we have completely disrupted their society. Then we completely tear their government to pieces.”
Admiral Santander, captain Stipetic, several of the European commanders and admiral Navrátil of the Auxiliary Fleet nodded. Then Halsey spoke up. “Hey, who put her in charge? I am the ranking officer of the United States military here. Who was it that dealt with the Martian threat? No no, we need to think this through. We should.”
Before he could finish whatever ineffectual rant he was about to purge, a klaxon sounded. Over the loudspeakers came the rich booming baritone of the Montana’s chief sensor officer. “Attention, attention, an enemy battleship has breached web-way terminus. Estimated time until orbit, 132 minutes.”
I started running to my ship. As did everyone else, except Stipetic who as per usual was teleconferencing in. Once I was aboard the rest of the fleet the Montana started climbing like a rocket. Followed by dozens of other ships in an emergency scramble. I ordered the Montana ahead at flank speed. At this rate we were hopefully going to close the distance with the enemy and keep any debris from settling into an orbit around the planet. Before my guns could acquire the target there was a voice on the radio, on the primary fleet frequency.
“Invaders, this is governor Rajistang. The ruler of the planet you have just occupied. This is your last warning from the rightful colonial authority of the Drankmastarian empire. Return to your world or you will face extermination.”
I was quite puzzled to hear this message, over the radio, and in English. I grabbed the microphone and replied. “Hove to and prepare to be boarded.”
“Hove what? I will not allow my ship to be boarded.”
“Sorry, I was using our technical shorthand. Stop your ships engines and surrender. If your intentions are peaceful then we can communicate face to face aboard your ship.”
“Technical, what the… I will not allow a creature like you aboard my ship!”
I realize that this guy is screwing around. He couldn’t possibly be so stupid to think that he can win when he is outnumbered. This must be some kind of a bluff. We have almost closed the distance with them and so I put down the microphone and ordered. “Pitch us up to a firing position where we can take out this guys engines.”
The crew complied. It was a bit of a long shot but Drankmastarian battleships have really big engines that are vulnerable to having all kinds of holes punched into. As the projectiles struck their shields all kinds of wacky noises rang out on the radio. It was somewhat comforting to know that even when their shields were up their ships still got rattled around inside. Once their shields fell it was a fairly simple matter to take out their engines.
I picked up the mike with a degree of swagger that I did not know I was capable of. “Enemy warship, we have taken out your engines. You cannot maneuver and if you try to fire I can simply knock out your plasma turrets from a distance. If you would like to open negotiations I am willing to talk.”
The governor replied, “I will try to put this in terms you may understand. You don’t know what you are messing with. The Horde may have pushed us out of some of our more remote colonies. But we still have the assets of two dozen worlds. You can’t command the assets of a single planet. We have crushed alien civilizations far more frightening than you.”
“That may be, and we might lose this war, but you have lost this battle. So prepare to be boarded. Escape is impossible.”
“Burn in hell!”
The sensor officer announced, “uh, it looks like he has activated some kind of auto destruct mechanism. I would guess that he has removed the control rods from his reactor. I am reading a massive and uncontrollable spike in energy from his ship.”
“Understood, all hands brace for impact, evasive maneuvers, get as much space between us and that monstrosity as possible.”
The quiet hum of the antigravity drive suddenly roared with full power. When the enemy flagship, with unknown thousands of people aboard would explode was anybody’s guess. We had only just figured out one bits and pieces of their technology. But the Montana’s chief engineer estimated in no more than 10 minutes that ship would go up in spectacular fashion.
As we fled I reopened the channel back to the dying ship. I had to say one last thing, “governor, I don’t know if you are still alive. But if you are, know that you die for nothing. Your act is an act of utter cowardice. You haven’t slowed us down, and by the time I am done with your empire your name will live on only as a dusty footnote in a tactical manual. And if your family survives this war they will curse your name as the selfish bastard who dragged thousands to their doom for no good reason.”
After the fight the remnants of the enemy battleship crashed spectacularly onto a barren moon of Ristavron 5. The second battle of the Ristavron system had proven to be even more lopsided, weird and pointless than the first one.
About two days later came the next big fight. There was another enemy strong point to be dealt with. The Darvulus system, a massive mining and manufacturing complex that spread across a vast system of rocky planets and asteroids lit by the light of a red giant star. The system showed signs of several planets having been broken up to get at the minerals inside.
If the resources of Darvulus could be captured then we might theoretically be able to start building large warships in enemy territory. Several factories had already been built on Ristavron 4 that were cranking out missiles, torpedoes and dozens of Bugatti and Black Widow fighters. It was good to know that we probably weren’t going to run out of munitions in the near future. But I wanted more. So I pulled together every ship I could get my hands on for this mission. Failure may always be an option. But a failure here would suck diseased donkey.
The bulk of the fleet burst out of the Darvulus web-way terminus. The enemy did not have as many ships in the area as I had expected.
Two enemy battleships closed on our formation. Leading with their strongest elements, keeping their support fleet in reserve. I ordered, “okay, Eutopian fleet, maximize your fire on the lead battleship. Carriers, hang back and launch your fighters at your discretion. European battleships, guard your carriers. Russians, concentrate on their heavy cruisers. Auxiliary fle…”
Before I could finish that word I saw the unmistakable shape of the USS George Washington blowing by us. “Washington, what the hell are you doing!?”
“Attacking, isn’t that what we are supposed to do here?!”
Admiral William “Bull” Halsey was not the most competent military officer I had ever dealt with. If the problem of near complete irrelevance of the blue water Navy in modern warfare wasn’t enough to render that branch of the military little more than an expensive joke. Then the promotion of perfumed princes over genuinely competent staff was the punchline. Halsey got his job by having a somewhat above average knowledge of fighter operations and keeping his staff at a high level of competence. But that was where his redeeming qualities ended. He was probably the most hotheaded man I have ever had the displeasure to know. Now the crazy bastard was ruining everything. For a moment I considered letting him go splat, but I just couldn’t do that. If Halsey wanted to kill himself that was one thing, but there were good people on that ship. I edited the plan on the fly.
“Aotearoa, take flanking position, Montana is advancing. Everyone else stick to the plan. Please try not to hit us.”
There was a great hue and cry over the radio concerning my recklessness. I started to piece together some kind of substitute plan. “Bull, what the heck are you doing!? You are driving a ship, not a fighter, your carrier doesn’t have the armor or weapons to close with an enemy battleship.”
“Don’t call me Bull, you cunt, you haven’t earned that! What are you so worried about? You guys sink these assholes pretty easily, and why should you civvies have all the fun. Launch fighters!”
Tiny fighters started flinging off the ugly mass. The Northrop Bullet was the inevitable result of years of peace and low bid contracts. A weird looking bird. A flying wing built around a pod that contained the engine, weapons and pilot. Primitive, underpowered and lightly armed. Late model Herons could defeat them in any flight envelope.
“Damn it Admiral, pull back, you’re going to die and take all of your men with you!”
He cut the radio and continued with his attack. Fortunately he was going for a light cruiser not a battleship. As if on cue said cruiser started launching plasma bolts at the carrier. Which it tried to evade. But it caught a couple of glancing blows.
“All guns fire, target their weapons. Aotearoa, prepare to provide covering fire.”
I could live for a thousand years, ridden with senility and I would never forget what happened next. One of their Swoose bombers launched a pair of missiles at the cruiser. A warning went out, they were nukes. We braced for impact.
In the ensuing blast the bomber was destroyed, Washington was heavily damaged by the shockwave. The radio crackled to life. “Hammond, you bitch, do you know how much I hate it when you are right.”
“Shear off, let us get between you and the enemy.”
“Negative, my ship has taken heavy damage, she can’t be fixed. There is only one thing left to do.”
The USS Washington started driving towards the cruiser, a suicide run. That pile of junk had no lifeboats. This was the worst possible scenario. I realized that there was only one thing to do. “Attention, all fighters from USS Washington, your commander has gone mad and I am taking command. You are to expend your ordinance and then retreat to cover behind the Auxiliary Fleet as fast as possible. Failure to do so will result in instant death.”
Chen asked, “should we blow a hole in their engines, try to stop them?”
“No, that wouldn’t solve anything. Launch a spread of torpedoes and keep the guns firing to screen the recovery process.”
The Aotearoa and Big Blue provided as much covering fire as we could. In spite of their incompetent commander the USAAC and USN pilots distinguished themselves in the fight. Successfully engaging enemy fighters in their underpowered flying wings. There was one enterprising Swoose pilot who successfully knocked out the shields of an enemy battleship with his nuclear payload.
Since we had closed the range with the enemy the rail gunners had a field day. They could hardly miss at this distance. But we had to get out of the way. The massed fire of the Eutopian and Russian ships was going to start chewing through this enemy fleet soon. Once the light cruiser stopped shooting at us we maneuvered to the left and downward as the tremendous energy of the Russian C.L.E.R.G.y cannons tore into the lead battleship.
Honestly I was surprised at the power of those weapons. It was one thing to see them used at a distance, or to read about them in dry after action reports. Actually seeing them blast a hole clean through a large enemy ship was a sight to behold. Like everything else the Singers had given us these weapons were unimaginably effective. As glorious as that was that didn’t hold a candle to seeing what the Eutopian’s could do. Or rather I should say not seeing.
Their ships formed up into something resembling a colossal rotating drill bit tip with the Intrepid in the center. Then they disappeared using their meta material stealth technology. As fire poured out of their weapons you could still see that they were flying in formation. Maximizing their fire on specific locations which proved to be too much for the shields of enemy battleships to withstand.
Six shots from the Novgorod and the Vladivostok each smashed the lead battleship to a mess of flying wreckage. The continuous fire from the Eutopian’s broke the enemy shields on the second battleship after three minutes. The second their shields fell the Eutopian wedge immediately peeled off and started attacking the escorting force of heavy and light cruisers. Now it was our turn, full railgun barrage from all Earth ships.
Amidst the controlled chaos of the battle I couldn’t help but appreciate how elegant, clean and rational the Eutopian’s tactics were. They completely took ego out of the equation and put defeating the enemy above all else. Even the pride of annihilating an enemy battleship. Once the enemies shields had failed Big Blue’s rail guns ripped the ship in two.
As the second battleship went all to pieces a huge enemy fighter force along with several enemy light cruisers broke off the rear formation and came straight at us. I called for a fighter force but someone pointed out that all our fighters were occupied elsewhere. I was not terribly worried, previous experiences had taught me how to deal with a massive attack by enemy fighter craft.
“All batteries, prepare for incoming bandits. Continuous fire of all weapons. If it goes bang, buzz or zap I want it cutting loose.”
Formation after formation came at us firing their plasma cannons. Fortunately the disintegrator and laser batteries were able to keep up. None of the imperials fighters made it to within ten miles of us.
By now the mass of enemy hulls had been trimmed back to a manageable size. Two light cruisers and what was left of their support ships were attempting to attack the Auxiliary Fleet. Big blue and the Eutopian fleet closed on them. Before we got into weapons range I fired a warning shot. A 20 kiloton fission bomb placed in their way. They stopped and surrendered after that.
I told the fleet to regroup and rearm. They probably weren’t going to hit us again after we had just crushed another battle group but one couldn’t be reckless in this kind of environment. I had a few smaller vessels go over to the damaged enemy light cruiser and secure their surrender. I had already sent a message over to them and they were grudgingly willing to accept the situation.
Casualties on our side, twelve light fighters, four heavy fighters. A quarter of the USN fighter force. Along with a ship from the Auxiliary Fleet, the Sword of Rama. She got a little ahead of everyone and caught a railgun shell in the back. The AF fought well, I half expected them to run away but they had pressed home their attack on the enemies cargo ships. No casualties aboard the Montana just a couple hundred dings, dents, bruises and whatnot. Enemy casualties. Scratch two battleships, four heavy cruisers, six light cruisers and twenty nine cargo ships.
Once the battle was over the AF did what they do best. They looted everything of value from the Darvulus system. Warehouses filled to capacity with valuable resources. The bulk of what was taken was metals of various sorts. They also found plenty of weapons and ship components. Weapons, engines, circuitry and the like. The Eutopian’s salvaged two incomplete enemy heavy cruiser hulls and dozens of cargo ships that had been under construction.
The United States Navy as a spacefaring force died at Darvulus. Admiral Halsey had drunk deep from the cups of pride, envy and anger. His hubris and incompetence pushed General Butler into accepting my deal. By that time almost half of his men had also agreed to my contract.
For most of the fleet the next week was spent rearming and analyzing battle videos. Ideas flowed as to how to use what we had to the greatest effect. For me the week was consumed by trying to find someplace to put the survivors from the Washington. Some of them wanted to continue fighting, so they would transfer to one of the European carriers. To be absorbed into their squadrons after qualifying to fly their birds. But most of them had been overawed by the incompetence of their commander and the sheer might of the enemy. So they just wanted to go home. That left the delicate question of what to do with their fighters and bombers. It would be very impractical to ship them all the way back to Earth. In the end I decided to give them over to the Auxiliary Fleet. Who would probably scrap them for spare parts. It seemed a fitting end to a humiliating and pointless program.
I couldn’t help but think of the stupidity of admiral Halsey. If he had been in charge of the entire battle we would have probably lost. We couldn’t afford to lose. Perhaps he had done us a favor by getting himself killed so early in the war. But by god, why did he have to take so many good people with him?