Into the Battle
The origins of human history begin to unravel as Earth learns they are not the only humans in the galaxy. The sudden discovery of humans living on multiple planets beyond Earth has created more questions than it’s answered.
When humanity arrived on New Eden, a hideous new alien race, the Zodarks was discovered. In the face of an existential threat to their own survival, the historical warring factions of Earth will need to unite if they want to save themselves from extinction and understand the true origins on human history.
A fleet is built, an invasion force is assembled…
Join our heroes as they lead humanity into the battle to conquer their first alien world and liberate previously unknown humans from the bondage of slavery and servitude.
Grab your copy of this gripping military sci-fi and find out today.
Release date: October 13, 2020
Publisher: Front Line Publishing Inc.
Print pages: 534
Content advisory: No profanity or sexual content
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Into the Battle
The Rhea System RNS Rook
“Captain! We’re getting our first signal returns,” Commander Fran McKee suddenly announced, concern in her voice. “It appears there are two Zodark ships in the system. One is breaking orbit from New Eden, and another was in orbit around one of her moons, but they’re both heading toward us now.”
The Earth fleet had only been in the system for sixty-eight minutes before the Zodarks had detected them. “Very well. Let the war begin,” Captain Hunt said as he clenched his fists.
He turned to his weapons officer, Lieutenant LaFine. “How long until they’re in weapons range at current speed and intercept course?” Hunt asked.
“They’re close to eight million kilometers out. I’m estimating at least two and a half hours until they’re roughly the same distance as the last time we fought each other.”
God, those ships are moving fast, Hunt thought, marveling at how quickly they were going to intercept their fleet. If they were at a standstill, it’d take his ship almost ten hours to reach them.
Hunt ordered the ship to general quarters to signal the crew to prepare for battle. They had been speeding ahead of the rest of the assault fleet now for thirty minutes, so they had built up a bit of distance between them and the orbital assaulter ships carrying the Republic Army soldiers and the Deltas that would be carrying out the ground assault.
When the enemy ships were within three million kilometers, they tried to acquire the Earther ships, just like the last time humans had fought the Zodarks.
Twenty minutes later, Commander McKee announced, “They’ve got a lock on us.” The two ships blinked red on the tactical display. A yellow circle was flashing over the top of the Rook, indicating lock acquired.
“Lieutenant Commander Robinson,” Hunt called out to his electronic warfare officer.
“I’m on it, sir. Commencing jamming now,” replied Robinson.
Moments later, the weapons lock on the RNS Rook disappeared. The weapons officer, Lieutenant LaFine, announced, “Captain, the
Zodark ships are increasing speed again. They’re now one million kilometers out and closing fast. Do you want me to engage them with our Havoc missiles?”
The Havoc was their newest ship-to-ship missile they’d been outfitted with before they left for this mission. The four-stage missiles gave them a lot of controllable range and speed.
“Weapons, hold fire until they reach three hundred thousand kilometers,” Hunt commanded. “Then fire a spread of five Havocs at each Zodark ship. Next, fire a single nuke at each ship. Repeat the sequence two more times. Let’s test their reaction to our missiles. When they pass two hundred and fifty thousand kilometers, fire the magrails. Send a screen of slugs their way.” The magrail slugs were penetrators, designed to punch through a ship’s armor and then explode their five- thousand-pound warheads inside the guts of a ship. The warheads also had the capability of detonating via a time delay, proximity to an object, or any other setting the gunners were told to incorporate.
“Yes, sir, we’re on it,” Lieutenant LaFine replied. His fingers danced across the keys at his console as he relayed the orders to the various weapon sections.
This battle’s unfolding a lot faster than the last one, Hunt thought apprehensively. During their previous foray into the system, it had taken the Rook and the Zodark ship more than five hours to get in range of each other’s weapons.
Half an hour later, LaFine announced, “Firing missiles.”
Everyone watched the missiles streak away from the Rook on the main screen. They looked like little blue arrow icons as they raced toward their targets. Over the next ten minutes, the blue arrows grew to three distinct barrages of missiles. Now it was just a matter of time until they closed in on their targets.
The icon denoting the lead Zodark ship started to blink yellow. The missiles’ targeting sensors were burning through the Zodarks’ jamming. The icon continued to blink yellow for close to thirty seconds before it became a solid red icon, meaning they had acquired a lock on their Zodark targets.
“The lead Zodark ship is attacking our missiles,” LaFine called out as they watched several of their missiles wink out of existence. At first,
it was only the lead wave of missiles, then the Zodark ship went after the second wave. The targeting AI responded to the Zodark threat, and the second wave of missiles took evasive maneuvers. Next, the third wave of missiles did the same. Moments later, the Zodark ship fired its pulse beam at the Rook.
“They’re firing on us,” called out one of the officers. “Deploying countermeasures.”
The supposedly new and improved sand and water or SW missiles flew out a few megameters in front of the Rook, then detonated their sand-water mixture to create a barrier to defray the enemy lasers. It dispersed only part of the Zodark laser before its powerful beam hit them head-on.
“Brace for impact!” yelled Commander McKee as she gripped the
edge of her workstation.
“Evasive maneuvers!” shouted Captain Hunt as the helmsman applied power to their forward maneuvering thrusters. The ship veered to the right as they sought to move away from the pulse beam trying to cut through their armor.
The ship shook violently, like it had just hit a wall while moving at full speed, and everyone grabbed for something to steady themselves.
“Try to roll the ship, helmsman!” barked Captain Hunt, hoping they could prevent the laser beam from cutting through their armor like it almost had in the last battle.
“We’ve got a hull breach on deck four, section two,” shouted one of the engineering petty officers. Alarm klaxons blared as red and yellow lights illuminated the damage control board.
The ship turned hard to one side as the Zodark laser lost its position on the hull.
“Damage control teams to deck four, get that breach sealed!”
Commander McKee ordered the engineering section on the bridge.
Seconds later, LaFine called out, “Fire main weapons,” sending the firing orders to the gun crews.
The outer cameras on the ship showed the magrail turrets moving to face the closest Zodark ship. Seconds later, the guns collectively fired. They kept firing rapidly, sending slug after slug of their new smart munitions at the charging alien ships. The continuous volley of twelve thirty-six-inch shells raced out magnetically charged barrels at twenty- five megameters per hour. The initial spread was crossing the distance
between them rapidly as the two warships continued to race toward each other.
“Whoa, what the hell is that?” called out Commander McKee in surprise. “That second ship is launching fighters. I’m showing ten—no, twenty new contacts. Scratch that, it’s now fifty new enemy contacts, Captain.”
Damn, now they’ve got fighters, too? Captain Hunt bemoaned.
During their last engagement with the Zodarks, the enemy ship hadn’t launched any fighters. Then again, neither of these two ships matched the specs of the previous two Zodark vessels they had encountered.
“Alert the point defense systems we have inbound fighters,” Captain Hunt ordered. “Fire the main guns at that lead ship. LaFine, we need to take that one out before we engage the other one.”
Just then, all but one of the first volley of projectiles missed the Zodark ship as it made a sharp turn. That one projectile made a last- second maneuver that enabled it to hit the rear half of the ship. It sliced right through the armor before its five thousand pounds of high explosives detonated inside the guts of the ship.
The next volley of nine slugs sailed right past the Zodark ship as it made a radical maneuver at the last second. The smart munitions couldn’t adjust swiftly enough to score a hit.
When the enemy ship made its last maneuver, the third volley of shells made a rapid adjustment to match the new direction the ship was sailing. Seven of the nine slugs scored direct hits across the midsection and forward section. When the warheads penetrated the Zodarks’ armor, the warheads exploded, causing a series of secondary explosions that rippled throughout the enemy ship.
Several small bursts of greenish light flickered from the Zodarks’ pulse beam batteries as it targeted the incoming waves of magrail slugs fired from the Rook.
“Crap! They’re going after our magrails!” shouted Lieutenant LaFine, in shock that they could actually do that.
The Rook’s magrail weapons crew watched in horror as several waves of their slugs were zapped out of existence.
The Rook shuddered again when the next volley of five Havoc missiles launched. The initial boosters lit up the darkness like a flare as the Havoc missiles raced toward the damaged Zodark ship.
Half of the third wave of Havoc missiles had now closed the gap on the enemy warship. Two of them got zapped out of existence at the last second, but the third, fourth, and fifth missiles managed to score direct hits. Those missiles plowed through several meters of armor before their warheads detonated, ripping a huge gashes in the Zodark vessel.
“They zapped all of our nukes, the bastards,” called out one of the
targeting officers in disbelief.
As the next volley of missiles took over their independent flight, five additional magrail shells slammed into the top aft section of the Zodark vessel near its engines. Several new explosions rippled throughout the rear part of the warship before the propulsion system flamed out.
“They’re dead in space!” Commander McKee shouted excitedly. “Missiles impacting in ten seconds,” called out LaFine as they
anxiously watched them track closer and closer. “Three…two…one…impact!” They watched three of their six new missiles explode against the side of the Zodark ship.
“Damn, they got our other nuke,” LaFine called out in frustration.
Eight more magrail projectiles slammed into the Zodark ship near the forward section of the vessel. A massive explosion took place, whiting out the screens on the Rook for just a moment. Once the sensors adjusted to the flash, the bridge crew saw an incredible sight—the front section of the Zodark ship had been ripped in half. The two chunks continued to separate from the momentum of the blast. Meanwhile, the remaining fires on the two sections slowly died out as the atmosphere that was feeding them bled away.
Before they could celebrate, Commander McKee urgently called out, “Enemy fighters are inbound and engaging us now with a missile…uh, we have another problem. I’m showing one hundred more fighters heading toward us.”
The image on the main screen shifted from the broken-apart warship to the second ship that was traveling behind them. This ship appeared twice as large. It was some sort of carrier ship they hadn’t encountered before.
The Voyager, which had been trailing behind the Rook, sent wave after wave of Havoc missiles at the Zodark carrier ship. Strings of magrail slugs from their main guns joined the fray, adding their own volume of fire to the battle.
As the enemy fighters angled in for an attack on the Rook, Lieutenant LaFine announced, “Activating point defenses.”
Fractions of a second later, the AI took control of the Rook’s close- in weapon system or CIWS. The darkness of space around the Rook erupted in a spectacular display of fireworks. The ship’s forty-two seven- barreled 20mm autocannons spewed out thousands of rounds a second at the Zodark fighters, their missiles, and their torpedoes.
Captain Hunt watched the battle taking place through the video feed of one of their tactical drones. He saw numerous waves of missiles or torpedoes heading right for the Rook, with several groups of smaller fighters flying in various formations followed closely behind. Then, the Rook’s AI defensive system activated the point defense systems, and the entire space around the Rook lit up like a Christmas tree. Red streaks of light from the tracer rounds spewed forth as a veritable wall of lead, shielding the Rook from the Zodark missiles.
As the Rook’s projectiles eviscerated most of the enemy missiles, the Zodark fighters flew into the maelstrom. Nearly half the fighters were wiped out in the first few seconds before they had time to react.
Several of the enemy missiles, which had been extremely maneuverable, suddenly transformed, becoming what looked like a blazing orange comet and losing some of their maneuverability at the same time. The helmsman of the Rook made several hard, radical course corrections, causing some of these mystery weapons to miss the Rook, but several more were about to hammer them.
“Brace for impact!” warned Commander McKee as half a dozen missiles that got through their defensive screen streaked through the wall of lead.
Bam, bam, boom…
The Rook shook violently from each of the impacts. Warning alarms blared and red and yellow lights flashed over different sections of the ship’s damage control board.
Hull breach in deck one, section five. Hull breach in deck one, section twelve. Hull breach in deck six, section two.
The automated computer alarm called out the severe threats to the ship that demanded immediate attention.
“Firing main guns at the carrier now,” LaFine yelled to be heard over the alarms going off around them.
“What the hell hit us?” barked Captain Hunt to no one in particular. Commander McKee turned to look at him from her console. “I don’t know how, but those missiles transformed—they weren’t like lasers.
They cut a deep gouge in the ship, like one of our magrail slugs would have done.”
Captain Hunt shook his head in frustration. Great, a whole new weapon system to worry about.
The ship shuddered several times as the main magrail guns turned their attention to the remaining Zodark vessel. The weapons crew fired more Havoc missiles in between volleys from the magrails.
As he continued watching the battle taking place, Captain Hunt saw the remaining enemy fighters repositioning for another assault. He could also see from the drone footage that atmosphere was bleeding from several of the hits his ship had taken. Flames emanated from parts of the Rook, while other parts looked blackened and scorched.
“Enemy fighters are coming in for another attack run…missiles inbound…count is rising…forty-two missiles!” Commander McKee called out.
Lieutenant Molly Branson, their coms officer, shouted, “Incoming message from the Ottawa. They’re moving forward to engage the enemy carrier now.”
The view on the large monitor at the front of the bridge shifted from a single image of the fighters closing in on them to a widescreen overview of the battle happening around them. This was the view Captain Hunt had been looking at a few minutes ago. It now showed the Rook in the center, surrounded by a small swarm of around forty remaining Zodark fighters. A little further out was the Zodark carrier, fifty thousand kilometers away.
The Voyager was now seventy megameters away, speeding forward to get in position to help. The overview also showed the Ottawa, one of the newer destroyers, racing ahead of the Rook toward the enemy carrier. Its own CIWS point defense weapons were blazing away at the Zodark fighters and missiles as they flew right into the melee. Trailing behind the Ottawa were the three other destroyers, looking to get in the fight.
Another monitor on the side of the main bridge screen had a camera following the massive Zodark vessel. It was a real beast of a ship, although Captain Hunt could see multiple spots where their magrails had hit. He watched as the ship conducted a series of radical course
corrections every few minutes—whoever was in command of that ship had clearly learned from the first battle that if they wanted to survive, they had to find a way to avoid being pummeled by the Rook’s magrail guns.
Just coming into view on the main screen, the Ottawa closed the distance between itself and the Zodark carrier. While the Ottawa was significantly larger than the Zodark fighters, it was incredibly small in comparison to the Zodark carrier.
When the Ottawa got within twenty-five thousand kilometers of the enemy ship, the carrier fired several pulse beams at it. The Ottawa, a smaller destroyer with more maneuverability, made a bold series of moves to get away from the beam. When it looked like the strategy had worked, Captain Hunt breathed a sigh of relief.
Moments later, his eyes widened in shock as a third beam sliced right through the Ottawa, cutting it in half. The rear half of the destroyer blew apart seconds later.
“Holy crap! They just blew up the Ottawa before they could even fire a shot!” one of the officers on the bridge exclaimed. Captain Hunt didn’t know who had spoken, but he was thinking the exact same thing. “Brace for impact!” Commander McKee yelled out again as another
pair of Zodark missiles made it through the barrage of point defense shells and then transformed into a comet-like slug.
More alarm bells went off; a couple of new sections of the ship were flashing yellow. One was flashing red, which meant they had either a severe fire underway or a hull breach in that vicinity.
“Got ’em! That was the last of those little bastards,” Lieutenant LaFine announced with satisfaction as the last group of Zodark fighters was finally destroyed.
Returning his gaze to the enemy warship, Captain Hunt watched a string of shells from the Rook’s main gun hit the Zodark carrier. He’d counted at least twelve hits against the carrier so far. He relaxed his clenched fists a bit when he saw the Zodark carrier’s failed attempts to outmaneuver the magrail shells.
Flames poured out of the Zodark vessel in several sections. It was clear more and more of the Rook’s magrail slugs were punching through their armor and causing serious damage to the guts of the ship. One hit blew out a massive jet of flames before it extinguished itself.
Captain Hunt hated relying on their magrails and missiles to destroy the Zodark ship. Magrails took time to cross the vast distance, giving the enemy vessel time for defensive maneuvers, and causing many of their magrail slugs to miss the mark. Sadly, the Republic Navy starships’ pulse beam lasers weren’t strong enough to cut through the enemy’s armor like kinetic weapons could.
In contrast, each time the Zodark carrier fired one of its pulse beams at the Rook, it slammed into his ship seconds later. The Rook was taking so many hits that Captain Hunt wasn’t sure they were going to make it. Looking at the damage control board, he saw yellow lights across dozens of areas of the ship intermixed with flashing red sections. He was losing people, a lot of people. He needed to end this fight promptly or his ship was doomed. But his only strategy was to keep firing missiles and hoping their slugs eventually blew something critical up.
It felt like forever, but the Voyager was finally within range to join the fray. Volley after volley of their magrail slugs slammed into the Zodark ship. The Voyager steadily moved into a blocking position between the Rook and the enemy vessel to act as a shield.
As Captain Hunt watched the Voyager block for them, the Zodark warship appeared to pick up speed to make a run for it.
Two of the three remaining RNS destroyers finally caught up to the Rook and were in range to fire their own weapons. They initiated a series of magrail volleys and missiles at the retreating Zodark ship as they joined the fray on the flanks of the Voyager.
When the RNS destroyers got within twenty thousand meters of the enemy vessel, the Zodarks fired several pulse beams at the smaller Republic warships. One of the beams hit the lead destroyer, and like the Ottawa, the ship was cut right in half. A second later, another beam sliced off the front section of a third destroyer, crippling it. The last destroyer broke away, trying to escape the Zodark ship’s pulse beam. It was becoming abundantly clear the new RNS destroyer armor spec was no match for the Zodark pulse beams at close range.
“Take that ship out before it can get away!” Captain Hunt roared angrily, growing frustrated that the Zodark vessel was successfully opening up some distance between them. If the enemy ship kept gaining speed, they were going to escape.
A few minutes later, a stream of thirty-six-inch magrail shells finally landed all along the rear section of the Zodark carrier. Seconds later, a
massive explosion ripped two of the six engine ports right off the main body of the ship. Then another volley of slugs pounded the wounded carrier further.
On the bridge of the Rook, the computer monitors briefly whited out again from another massive flash of an explosion. When the resolution came back in focus, they saw a chunk of the rear section of the Zodark carrier blown wide open. Without engines, it was adrift, only moving from its initial forward momentum.
Hunt watched the ship slide sideways a little bit; it was clearly not able to stabilize itself. With the engines and main reactor offline, the remaining weapon systems appeared nonfunctional. A few lights indicated a functioning power source, but the ship was no longer firing at them.
A wild thought entered Captain Hunt’s mind. He turned to his XO. “Commander McKee, send a message to the rest of the fleet to cease fire. Next, send a message to the Delta commander—tell him to board that vessel if possible and capture it. Take prisoners if they’ll give themselves up, but let’s take that ship.”
She smiled at the idea, even though she looked like it was probably the craziest thing she’d ever heard. McKee reached for her communicator and passed the order along to their ground detachment.
The Deltas were the shock troops for both space and ground combat. They had trained to conduct hostile boardings of spacecraft, assault orbital stations, or attack ground facilities from orbit. Having undergone a year of physical enhancements and augmentations, they were a cut above their regular army counterparts, the Republic Army soldiers. They were far and above the most feared soldiers in Sol.
“Captain, Admiral Halsey is sending you a message,” his coms officer relayed.
Captain Hunt nodded in acknowledgment. “I’ll take it at my station.”
He moved back to his captain’s chair and opened the channel. He saw her tense face, strained by stress. “Captain Hunt, is your ship OK? It looks like you sustained some serious damage.”
Glancing over at the damage report readout, he did a quick scan. “Nothing we can’t fix, Admiral. We have a couple of hull breaches, but they didn’t punch too deep. Four meters of armor is clearly not enough when going up against these bastards, that’s for sure.”
“Well, in any case, good shooting,” Halsey replied. “What’s with
calling a cease-fire? We were just about to finish that ship off.”
Captain Hunt paused for a moment. “If you agree, I plan on ordering
my Special Forces to board it and capture it,” he explained.
A smile crept across Admiral Halsey’s face. “Really? What makes you think you can capture it?”
“I think if the enemy was going to abandon ship, they would have already done it,” Hunt pointed out. “That leads me to believe they’re going to make repairs to regain control. Right now, the ship doesn’t appear to have power to its weapons or propulsion systems, which gives us a unique opportunity. If we can get a boarding party on the ship and take control of it, it’ll be an enormous intelligence boon. Admiral, I think it’s worth the risk.”
Instead of overriding him, Admiral Halsey nodded as if praising his
initiative. “Good call, Hunt. Do you want us to assist you?”
Captain Hunt looked at the drifting enemy ship for a moment and thought about how to respond. He hadn’t really considered how many Zodarks might be on board. He had a company of Deltas led by Captain Hopper that could do a lot on their own, but having more soldiers on hand couldn’t hurt either.
“I think Captain Hopper would appreciate the help, Admiral,” Hunt finally said with a nod. “Once my Deltas depart the ship, I’d like to continue toward New Eden while we repair the ship. Then we can conduct a more thorough scan of the moons and the planet before the rest of the fleet gets much closer.”
She wrinkled her brow like she was about to disagree with his assessment, but then she consented. “OK, Captain, you can continue toward the planet, but only if you think your ship is still able to carry the fight to the enemy. Right now, you look pretty beat up. I don’t want to risk losing the Rook because we didn’t take the time to get her fully repaired. In the meantime, I’ll take operational control of the Deltas once they leave your vessel. Oh, and Captain, when you do get near the planet and those moons, deploy your satellites and surveillance drones. I want to know what’s down there and what we’re facing.”
“We’re on it, Admiral,” Hunt replied with a smile. “If my engineers tell me we need some time or even a day or two to get things fully repaired, we’ll wait. I won’t risk the ship like that.” With that, he cut the
feed and got in touch with his Delta commander. He wanted to personally brief him on the new mission he was giving them.
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