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Saturday, July 9, 2016

EXCERPT: Chains Of Command by Marko Kloos


We now call it the Exodus.

One year ago, a Lanky seed ship appeared in Earth’s orbit, humanity’s worst nightmare manifesting in the night sky above the North American continent: immovable object and irresistible force all rolled into a glistening black torpedo shape three kilometers long.

The world’s fleets were down to the dregs then. We lost half the NAC Fleet in the unsuccessful defense of Mars, which the Lankies took a few months before they showed up at Earth for the first time. Most of the rest is still scattered across the settled galaxy, unable to return home because of the Lanky blockade of our Alcubierre nodes. We had very little left on the board, but we stopped the Lanky seed ship and blew it out of space, only the second time in our half-decade war with them we ever managed to kill one of their ships.

But our victory came with a huge bill.

The last-ditch multinational screening force above Earth lost four ships in the battle. Twelve hundred soldiers and sailors, gone in a few moments of furious and mostly one-sided combat. Five of those sailors were on the NACS Indianapolis, which won us the battle by ramming the Lanky at fractional c velocity and damaging the seed ship enough for us to take it apart with nukes. The Lanky ship lived long enough to spew out its seedpods all over North America—each with a dozen settler-scouts in it, twenty-five meters tall and as hard to kill as a building. We followed them down to Earth, and we killed the ones that survived their descent, and we lost even more people. Hundreds of soldiers and thousands of civilians died in one night of heavy, desperate fighting, and we reduced entire city blocks to smoking rubble.

But we beat them, and we survived. Earth won a reprieve.

And now we had something new: Lanky bodies, hundreds of them, and dozens of crashed seedpods. Lots of stuff for our scientists to study and dissect. To figure out how they work, how they can be killed. How their ships can be broken.

Just before the Lankies came to Earth last year, the government of the North American Commonwealth evacuated the Solar System in secret. They took with them a dozen first-rate warships, almost twenty bulk freighters, and the Commonwealth’s political and social elite and their families. Nobody knows yet where they went. Fleet rumors say that the Exodus fleet had a secret Alcubierre node to a refuge system prepared long in advance, in anticipation of Earth falling to the Lankies sooner or later. We have electronic intelligence from a cluster of recon buoys Colonel Campbell and Indianapolis left when we discovered the secret Exodus staging area just before their hasty departure a year ago. I suppose we need to thank the Lankies for rushing their departure ahead of plan, because they had to leave behind two unfinished warships that are unlike anything any fleet has ever put into space: two heavy battleships, purpose-built for only one job—to close with Lanky seed ships and destroy them.

We spent the last year finishing those battleships and pressing them into service with the hull paint still wet. The Sino-Russians, pragmatic sons of bitches, came up with their own Lanky hammer—orbitally launched antiship missiles, monstrous things with ten-thousand-ton warheads made from a mixture of ice and wood pulp, driven to fractional c velocities in mere minutes via nuclear pulse propulsion. After making new friends on the other side of the fence last year, I am deeply convinced that it must have been a Russian who cooked up the idea

of making a pointy block of ice the weight of a heavy cruiser, and then using nukes to propel the thing. It’s crude, dirty, and ugly, but, by God, it works. Two more Lanky ships showed up in the Earth-Luna space in one-month intervals a few months after the Battle of Earth, and the Russians blew both of them out of space with their new Orion missiles without any human losses. The Lankies stopped scouting out Earth then.

Of course, using nuke-propulsion kinetic weaponry capable of wiping out half a continent from Earth orbit was a massive Svalbard Treaty violation, but that sort of thing was really low on everyone’s priority lists when the Lankies showed up again.

The Orion missiles, as effective as they are, have one major operational drawback. They’re too big and heavy to be launched from a starship, so we can’t take them through an Alcubierre node. They share that drawback with the new battleships, which don’t have Alcubierre drives

installed yet. So we finally have viable antiship weapons to use against Lanky seed ships, but they’re good only for orbital defense. Mars is still in Lanky hands, and our colonies are still cut off by the Lanky blockade. But we are working around the clock to find a way to take the fight to

them for a change. To get revenge for our dead, to reclaim what’s ours, and to kick them out of the Solar System for good. And if we can chase them to whatever system they call home and wipe them out altogether, I wouldn’t lose any sleep at night.

Humanity’s survival is still on the edge of a knife. But we are finally starting to pull on the same end of the rope together, and we are finally killing Lankies in numbers. There’s much work left to do, and I know we will lose more people and ships before it’s all over, but there is finally

a glimmer of hope that the world isn’t going to go to shit after all.

Well, at least not any further.

1 comments:

Becky G said...

As much as I love Fantasy, i'm really into ones that aren't "out of this world". But the space ones are also a guilty pleasure for me. But I have been reading Ajax Minor's book Sun Valley Moon Mountains, it's based in Idaho but the world he creates for this story is awesome. This is the kind of fantasy read I can get on board with! ajaxminor.com is his site for that book.

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