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We've Seen the Enemy
the complete enemy saga
By Paul Dayton
ireadiwrite PublishingCopyright © 2010 Paul Dayton
All rights reserved.
Slight Complications ...
Six Months Later
Jack picked her usual spot, trying hard not to be noticed which was next to impossible. Lithe, tall and unusually dark for one who had spent all her life on board a stellar craft, it was her mysterious grey eyes that were known to stop people in mid sentence. At the moment, no one was stopped in the unusually busy cafeteria that doubled as an impromptu social area.
Jack cringed as she saw Susan come near. "It wasn't your fault, Jaclyn," her wingman said. Very few people knew Jack's real name, and Susan was one of them.
That morning on a training run her student, Mike 'The Knife' as he liked to call himself piloted his ship head on into a rock. Jack had spied the failing thruster just before it happened but she couldn't do anything in time. He was one of the best they had, and Jack knew he had an immense crush on her which she played out for fun, but now he was frozen organic space dust. "He was only thirteen," she had repeated all morning to herself.
She ignored Susan, but soon the others came around too. After hearing repeated "There was nothing you could have done" comments, Jack couldn't take it any longer and was just about to get up and leave when Jason came by and said, "Why all so gloomy? Someone die?"
He realized too late that he had just put his foot in his mouth.
"Oh. Uh, I didn't mean ... I mean, I had no idea ..." Jason mumbled as he tried to defuse the angry stares. Jack felt the gravity generators fail again and took advantage of the opportunity. She had been holding in her anger, but Jason had split it wide open. She launched herself straight at him, giving him a solid blow to his nose as she floated by. The gravity came back on and Jack landed hard but she picked herself up and walked away.
The crunch Jack felt as she smacked Scratch in the nose reminded her of the fights she had as a teenager. The kids in school teased her, calling her Jack instead of Jaclyn. The girls were jealous of her quick physical development and early beauty and the boys were angry she ignored them, which ended up being Class 101 in the school of hard knocks.
Once her parents were reassigned to WF221, she chose to call herself Jack. When people asked why she had a boy's name, she said it was because she fought like one, and offered free demonstrations. Few took her up on the offer.
"Jack, I didn't know!" Jason said while holding his bleeding nose, but she had already gone around the corner. He ran after her and eventually caught up.
"Hey, SLOW DOWN!" he said and grabbed her shoulder. She turned, ready to explode at Scratch again but saw the blood covering his old fashioned flight jacket as he held his nose.
"I didn't know Jack! Honestly! What happened anyway?" he said in a nasal tone.
Jack's anger simmered down as she saw the concern in his eyes. "Damn computer glitch! Or screwed up thruster! I don't know. All I know is that he's dead. He's thirteen and dead Scratch! It's bad enough losing someone because he got jacked, but this is just stupid, a stupid waste!"
Jason was quiet for a few seconds as Jack stood there trembling with anger and frustration. "That's not your fault Jack and you know it," he finally said. "And he's not the only thirteen-year-old killed either. It sucks, but by rights we've gone way past our due date too. Those ants should have had our number, but it's the luck of the draw. And ..." Scratch guessed, "Mike, I take it ... his luck ran out, pure and simple. It really sucks," he said as he saw her anger flare again, "but there's nothing any of us can do about it. Except keep on beating those damn ants and pushing our own luck," he added.
"Lucky for us, we're smarter than they are," she said, not particularly including Jason in the comment.
"Yeah," he replied, not knowing what else to say.
At that moment, the COMBAT klaxon sounded as WF221 geared for battle.
* * *
"Sir, Unidentified Object on Low Planet Orbit," Jumal, the acting Tactical Officer said. Commander Dietrich turned to the main 3 dimensional Tactical display and watched as a UO, symbolized by a bright yellow triangle in LPO around Beta-9 slowly came into view. The triangle started blinking which made Dietrich very curious, because it confirmed what the object was, but couldn't discern if it was 'Friend or Foe'.
"Comp, list specs on main screen."
Dietrich read the description as a high definition view of the object was finally processed. 'Class 1 Orbiting Weapons Base, origin – Human, Second Generation,' had scrolled down the side, listing the standard weapons inventory.
"Confirm lack of transponder." Dietrich couldn't understand why the platform wasn't sending a 'friendly' symbol.
"Confirmed sir," Jumal said. "Our systems are fine. Pinged it five times. No Transponder."
Now Dietrich's eyebrows raised up in surprise. "Didn't Intel establish this as unoccupied?" "Unoccupied, light alien activity."
"What do you make of it, Captain Hollander?"
The Captain of WF221 looked at the convoy Commander and said, "Never heard of this before. If the transponder's down, you communicate. I would say the platform is no longer ours."
At that moment, all eyes turned as Council Intelligence Officer Ian Anderson walked onto the bridge. Dietrich didn't blame them. In the twelve years Anderson had been on WF221, he had NEVER come to the bridge and had remained an enigma to the crew. He silently came to stand by Dietrich's side to watch Main Tactical.
"Sir, we got more bogeys!" Jumal yelled as two more red triangles now showed up on screen, their tactical information scrolling down the side.
"We've got CAP ships! COMBAT ALERT!" Captain Hollander yelled as soon as the info was confirmed.
"Did you know of this?" Dietrich asked the Intel officer, but as usual Anderson remained quiet.
The Commander turned to Tactical with a sour look on his face, tired of the lack of answers he got from the secretive Council Intelligence Agency. They had been set up by the Council over seven hundred years before, and rumor was they kept in constant contact. However, no one else had heard from them at all, and Dietrich doubted they even existed anymore.
He watched as the two Cap ships neared the orbital platform.
"Sir, what should we do?" Jumal asked, worried about the fate of the platform.
"Nothing, yet," said Anderson, to Dietrich's annoyance. "Tell me when they're in attack range of the platform."
"They are now sir, and have been for the last two minutes. Two more Cap ships have just jumped in!" "I see. Captain Hollander, Commander Dietrich, make sure the convoy is aware of the situation, and set an intercept course for the orbital platform. You are to destroy it, and then attack the nearest Capital ship."
Hollander looked incredulously at Anderson. "You're telling me I am to position myself between four Capital ships and destroy a human platform, and then each Cap ship in turn? This is your order?" he asked, thinking that it was perhaps some joke.
"Yes," Anderson said as left the bridge.
Knowing he had no choice, Dietrich confirmed the order and the bridge crew resigned themselves to their inevitable death.
* * *
Jack was startled by the combat klaxons, but they only meant one thing as she sprinted down the hallway to the launch bay. It was a mad scramble as everyone got ready to reach their stations, surprise showing on almost all their faces. Ever since Abadon destroyed the alien home-world, no one really expected to have to engage aliens in any serious fight. Jack didn't know what to think. It's true that they were hive oriented, but she guessed they could also function far from home independently of their queen. Intel kept quiet on the matter of course. As the saying goes, if you want to know anything, DON'T ask Intel.
As she ran, she thought of the brave crew that accomplished the impossible. From the very beginning no one thought that the mission objective could be achieved. Antimatter was extremely difficult to make, and it was almost impossible to store properly and safely for any length of time. At Luna 13, when ten ounces of antimatter reacted, the 180 petajoules obliterated not only the station, but the moon itself, killing over one thousand people in the process. But to store, transport, and somehow thread their way through enemy defenses and actually reach their target was a true achievement, an incredible win in a long string of losses. Jack would like to have met these heroes. The Russians were still ecstatically celebrating over their dead comrade, a crew member called Ivanov on the fateful ship. Jack even joined them for a day of drinking from their very well designed still. What would happen now? What would the aliens do? She didn't know, but after what happened to Mike she was ready to kick some ass and find out. "Nancy, Jack here. Did you check my suit? I had that interface problem the last time ..." Jack waited at the wall comm while Nancy searched her memory.
"My Drop Suit? You know, suit to ship interface ... got a lot of static, my ship would miss a beat ..." Jack added, frustrated that Nancy couldn't remember.
"Oh yeah, that's right," Nancy replied. "The terminals were corroded. Too much moisture and the oxygen was a little rich in the storage compartment. Checked your other links too. Should be fine. Let me know if you have a problem."
Nancy's voice carried over to her suit comm as Jack suited up. Within seconds she was being dropped into her ship by the overhead carriage when she heard Nancy's last words. A firefight was not the time to discover any problems with her interface connections.
"Just one more question Nancy. This morning, my student had some problem with his thruster. Any idea who had serviced the ship last?"
"Who was it?" Nancy said, as the launcher engaged.
Jack chose her words carefully. "It was Mike."
"Mike, as in Mike the one who ...?"
"Yeah. That Mike." There was a pause and Jack activated Tactical and Targeting while she waited.
"Just checked. Nothing on the logs. Must be corrupted data."
"R-i-g-h-t ..." Jack replied. It was no surprise Nancy wouldn't say. It was common practice to prevent revenge and to keep things going smoothly. The person in question would normally be reprimanded and dealt with privately.
"Nancy, he was only 13 dammit!"
"And now he's dead. What do you expect to do? Someone MAYBE didn't notice an ignition wire screw loose out of the thousands we have to check every week, and you're ...what? Gonna nail our ass?"
Jack knew she was right, and hated herself for it all the more.CHAPTER 2
WF221 as it was commonly known had been approaching a planet called Beta-9 in the Andromeda Galaxy, a few million light years from where they figured old Earth should be. She was part of a collection of 22 ships assigned to clean up this area, over 52 million parsecs of space, and this put them somewhere in the vicinity of their old home-world, a place they hadn't seen in over 700 years.
Although space was incredibly vast and the task seemed impossible, jump drives and stolen cartographic information gave them all the information they needed. Ants were extremely organized, especially when it came to cataloguing appropriate planets for their use, and few planets suited their needs. They never established bases on planets or moons that did not have the 4 basics: stability, atmosphere, a food source and water, and this cut down the number of planets that humans needed to search and clean up on. They had recently found out that this planet itself was a lightly used ant base, something they should have been able to take care of quickly.
"Jack, why is this called Beta-9? Cartography has this as ... (M31)NGC 6822-6 and Beta-9 in brackets. This is the sixth planet from the sun according to Tactical," one of her wing mates said.
"Looked it up. Beta-9 is an old Earth name. Was buried somewhere in Cartography. Rumor has it that Beta meant Program Beta from old Earth and that '9' referred to colony number 9 established in the exodus."
"Hot damn, Jack Hammer! You're just a bag of useful information to-day!" came a voice that took Jack a moment to recognize.
"Get lost Pickles," she replied. Pickles was Lt. Samuelson's unofficial call sign because of his pockmarked face.
"Anyway, as I was saying, there are no official records of this other than the name. Asked Intel, and they were as useful as a bag of shit." She laughed at her earlier attempt to look up the info, and the blank stares she got as the Intel officer with the deep set, tiny eyes repeated the well worn phrase, "I'm sorry, we have nothing to back up these unsubstantiated rumors."
"Jack, we're at the designated coordinates, wingmen assembled minus one," her Ship Comp said.
'Bet I know who the one is,' she said to herself as she looked around. "Comp, we're at coordinates. We should have received an info dump by now. Why am I not seeing anything?"
"There have been no updates," Ship comp said, referring to the Tactical dump the superior sensors on board a WF ship would transmit to all fighters.
"Comm to WF221. This is Flight Leader, Wing 3. I've got no dump. Where's my info?"
"Flight Leader, there is no info dump. Keep your eyes open."
'What the hell ...?' "Say again ..."
There was a pause, and the Comm Officer's voice, now lowered, came back on. "Captain, there is to be no official info dump. We have been assigned to another quadrant while you clean up in your area. Um, expect ... heavy action."
'Expect heavy action,' Jack said to herself. 'What the hell does that mean?' "Can you at least give us Status on enemy fighters?"
Another pause. "Wing Leader, this is Dietrich. We have numerous bogeys and surface launches, out of your range but should be visible soon. Your orders are to engage surface launchers and keep them off our back. We'll be busy with our own mission objective in a separate quadrant. Standard search on these coordinates until called for. Keep your eyes open and good hunting."
Jack was extremely curious. Dietrich had given her direct orders, and it was obvious something was up. She had a ton of questions but knew she wasn't going to get anything from WF221. Turning her attention to other matters, she yelled, "Scratch, where the hell are you?"
Jason was always late. The other wingmen laughed but said nothing as the wing grouped together minus one and set a search pattern on the coordinates given. As she searched her mind drifted back to their fight. Over two hundred years were spent in fleeing and regrouping after the initial holocaust. 400 years were spent building, fighting and losing ground, and the last one hundred on a last ditch effort by a group of scientists and wishful thinkers to destroy the alien home-world.
It seemed to have worked, at first. Any aliens Jack and the others came across were easy pickings. They appeared lost without their home-world, crawling around half-comatose, bumping into things, tripping over themselves, and generally being easy targets. Reports came in across the board from all WF ships that morale was the highest it had ever been as everyone took advantage of the opportunity to get rid of what was once a dangerous foe, a near destroyer of their home-world, but now only a galaxy pest. It was a free-for-all that gave everyone bragging rights. But now Jack felt squirmy in her seat, and her gut told her that something was wrong.
Her wingmen were in a wide search pattern, strung out like jewels five kilometers apart from each other. She decided to shake things up a bit and did a quick roll left, inverted and spun her ship 180 degrees as she let her momentum keep her moving forward.
"Bogeys Bogeys Bogeys! Targeting is zero!" She yelled as she stared an alien interceptor in the face. The surprise almost made her heart stop. As she reacted, the alien got on her six and dropped two DB's. That was surprising, seeing as this actually required some thinking.
"Flight leader Wing 3, to Tactical! I've got visual on bogey's but nothing on Tactical. They're hot and I've got DB's on my ass. Evading and returning fire. To all Wing Leaders, it's a free for all, boys!" She could hear the whooping and hollering of her wing-mates as she turned the comm down.
Excerpted from We've Seen the Enemy by Paul Dayton. Copyright © 2010 Paul Dayton. Excerpted by permission of ireadiwrite Publishing.
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