It had been over three years since the defeat of the Algean forces in the Pydres System. There had been major changes in the Stars Realm not the least was the establishing of the Stars Realm Fleet with Admiral Kosiev in overall command. There was no controversy over Kosievs’ selection because the elected representatives selected him which relieved Danielle of having to overrule them. She accepted that decision and most of the others presented to her. The Fleet Academy had been built and the Navy had grown tremendously. Admiral Mikado along with his officers was in the Pydres system waiting for the Algean answer to their defeat. Kosiev and Dorg considered going looking for the Plants but were overruled by the Special Forces who felt that to follow that path would be a mistake. Kosiev was in the Dremels system on board the Moscow talking with Mikado, “Have you changed the software on your penetrators?” Kosiev asked.
“Yes Sir, they can be changed in flight or on board. I do think that changing the selector to any number between two and twenty is a bit exaggerated,” Mikado said with a chuckle.
“Then you don’t have the most current upgrade. The selector can now be up to 100.” Kosiev answered.
“Why would we do that and what would possibly need a hundred penetrators targeted on it?”
Kosiev looked at Mikado and Lin could tell he was in no joking mood. “Mikado, those Plants have been in space for more than a million years. They have seen all of our tricks. The only thing we haven’t shown them is our top speed. They have only seen two thirds of our maximum. Now that they have been roundly defeated, why do you think they have not come calling again?”
“Fear perhaps,” Mikado answered but he began to worry also. “Sir, will you send the new selector out to my fleet for installation?”
“I’ll do it immediately. Your ships should get it ahead of the ships here.”
“Tag, will you get Rose to drop her doll off the ceiling. I’m expecting guests and you and she know I don’t like here using her psychic talents around non-family members.” Danielle said with a tone of exasperation.
Tag looked at Rose and she giggled and he heard in his mind, “I know, I know, Mommy wants my doll down.”
Tag had been amazed that Rose could communicate with our having a link from Atlas since the age of two. He also thought that he still had no idea of all the psychic skills she possessed. Tag smiled and thought, “Rose, do you enjoy frustrating Mommy?”
Rose frowned and thought back, “Never, I love Mommy, but I do like to play with her. That trick you taught me with the shadows is a lot of fun. I can sneak up on her and scare her. Now that’s funny, Daddy.” Rose put her hand over her mouth and giggled.
Tag looked at his four year old girl with her blond hair down to the small of her back and her bright green eyes looking at him with happiness. She was going to be even more beautiful than her mother he thought. Tag picked Rose up and sat her in his lap. “Rose read my thoughts; I’m going to open them to you.” Rose frowned and shook her head but Tag said, “I know we’ve taught you not to invade another’s privacy by reading their thoughts uninvited but I’m inviting you to read mine.” Rose looked hesitant but Tag said, “It is ok, Darling, go ahead.”
Rose looked into her father’s eyes for a few moments and then said, “Mommy has a lot of responsibility for a lot of others doesn’t she? She also worries that she’ll make a mistake that would hurt a lot of people.”
Tag nodded and smiled at her thinking that his daughter’s eyes were so green and looked so bright.
“I should wait for Mommy to come play with me first. Scaring her or hiding from her keeps her from making good choices for her subjects. I’ve only made her worry more, haven’t I?”
Again Tag nodded.
Rose frowned and Tag could see she was pondering what she had just learned. The doll floated down from the ceiling and settled on Rose’s lap. “Daddy, why do I have to hide my mind skills?”
“Read my thoughts again, Rose.”
Rose was quiet for a long time and then she said, “I didn’t know you had to hide yours when you were little, Daddy.”
Tag was genuinely surprised. His childhood had not been in his thoughts but she had seen his memories. She surprised him more and more every day.
“I understand, Daddy. It will be hard to get friends if they’re afraid of me. I’ll keep my gifts hidden like you did.”
Tag hugged Rose tightly and she giggled again. “I want you to fly me like your father used to fly you when you were my age.”
Tag felt the warmest love for his daughter and then he grabbed her and spun her around then lifted her over his head and ran out of the room with her giggling the whole time while he relived his fondest childhood memory with his daughter.
Kosiev was on board the Moscow and his crew had just loaded the new penetrators into their magazines. He was preparing to leave Dremel when his communications officer yelled, “Sir, a large Plant fleet had just jumped into the Pydres system.”
“Put Mikado thru now,” Kosiev ordered. “Lin what’s happening?”
“Sensors report half a million ships in the outer system coming our way. The ships are all 2 miles long and are moving in at twice the speed of their original fleet. Sensors also say that the ships have multiple force fields around them. You were right sir, the analysis of their screens indicate that each of the five screens is as strong as the one they employed on the old ships. There are no heavy ships in this fleet.”
Kosiev felt a bad premonition. “Admiral Mikado, get the Pydres left on the planet into transports and take them to the forts. I think the Plants feel like they have a solution to our planetary screen and I don’t want to risk the population. Send a fleet out to see what they are capable of doing.”
Mikado ordered Admiral Smiths fleet to jump out and attack the Lead ships. Smith reported back in that his star drives were inoperable.
“What! What do you mean you can’t jump?” Mikado yelled.
“Sensors have picked up a frequency being broadcast by six ships moving in with the Algean fleet that prevents our drives from working. It seems to prevent the drive field from resonating on a fixed frequency. The engineers are going to have to answer how this works but the drives won’t resonate. The sun’s gravity and that dampening frequency won’t allow us to jump.”
Kosiev had been listening to the exchange and ordered, “Lin get your ships out of there. Get the forts fired up and get them moving out away from that fleet.”
Mikado looked at Kosiev and said, “Too late sir, the Plant fleet has encircled the planet at the jump limit and have any route out of the system cut off. They can jump around the limit to any direction we try to go. We also have to wait until all the Pydres are on the forts which will take four hours.”
“Get your fleet under way and try to slow them down.” Kosiev ordered.
Admiral Smith said, “I’m on my way, Sir. We’ll meet the ships moving in system. The other Plant ships are jumping around the SD limit and beginning to move in. They should be here in twelve hours.”
Smith’s 1,500 Megaships accelerated out toward the Plant fleet at? speed while Chen’s and Kelly’s fleets moved into formation to confront the incoming ships before they reached the forts. Kosiev watched the video feed coming to his ship from the Rising Sun. Kosiev noticed that Tag and Admiral Dorg just commed in on his display and were being informed by Kosievs’ communication officer what was happening. “Send me the coordinates of those ships broadcasting that frequency.”
“It won’t do any good, Sir,” Mikado said. “They are heavily guarded by hundreds of those ships and moving in with the main body of their fleet; we’ll have to fight our way thru hundreds of thousands of ships to get to them.”
Kosiev watched as Smith’s ships ran toward the Plant’s front ships. Three hundred miles out the Megas started firing their primary beams at the Plant fleet but the targets were shrugging off the beam at that range. Three screens would burn thru but the beam would quit before it made it thru the inner two screens. Kosiev stood up and watched a massive missile launch from the Plants just as the Megas reached 100 miles out. The missiles were faster than any Kosiev had ever seen. They were even faster than penetrators and they had much larger anti-matter warheads. They also flew erratic courses toward the Human ships.
“Sir, these new missiles have three engines and are piloted. Sensors report an Algean onboard each of them piloting an evasive course to our ships. Their speed is incredible.”
Smiths 1500 Megas began killing Algean ships and missiles when the range was down to 100 miles but then the missiles struck and Smith lost 900 ships instantly.”
Mikado and Kosiev were stunned. Mikado yelled, ‘Get your ships out of there! Run toward the planet.”
The remaining 600 SR ships turned and went to full speed but it was too late, the rest of the ships were blown apart by the anti-matter warheads that had gone past and circled back on them. No one survived.
Mikado thought, “We’re trapped.”
Kosiev looked at his sensor officer and said loudly, “Do you have the coordinates of those ships broadcasting that frequency?”
“Yes Sir, I do.”
“Send them to me now; that’s an order!”
Kosiev looked at his jump officer and said, “Program them in and jump thru the gamma galaxy to those coordinates. I want our primary beams focused tightly in front of our ship. We are going to go to full speed as soon as we emerge into normal space and burn anything in our path out to 200 miles in front of us. On my order you will launch every penetrator in our inventory with the selector set on 100. I want all our power fed directly into the primaries only. Forget the screen around us; I hope we will be moving too fast to get hit from the side. On my command, jump to gamma. Jump now.”
Dorg had been patched in to the action and Tag had just come on the channel when Kosiev jumped out from the Dremels planet. “Just what do you think you’re doing Admiral,” Tag asked.
Kosiev could see Danielle sitting beside Tag at the com with a concerned look; Kosiev picked up a bag of popcorn and said, “I’m going to save some friends.”
Dorg said, “You stand no chance. We can’t stand up to their missiles.”
Kosiev looked at them thru their display and said, “My ships at the planet stand no chance, the Pydres population stand no chance, the forts stand no chance unless those six ships broadcasting that frequency are knocked out. That’s the only way my people can be saved.”
Tag said, “You can’t do this, Alex. Please don’t do this.”
Kosiev smiled and said, “On Ross, you really didn’t know if you would survive or not when you landed on the planet did you?”
Tag shook his head. “No, I wasn’t sure.”
“But you had to try anyway.”
Tag only looked at his long time friend.
“So do I, my friend. So do I,” Kosiev said.
Mikado came on line and said, “Admiral you’re worth more than all of us. Don’t do this.”
Tag winced. That was exactly what Kosiev had said to him when he had dropped into the middle of the Rossville ground battle. He knew there was no stopping his long time friend.
Kosiev then looked at Tag on his display and said, “I don’t know what is going to happen, Tag; but I’m certain of one thing; you have to come back and be the point of the Stars Realm Spear against these creatures. We were most successful when you were leading our battles. Mikado is better than I am at handling fleet actions and Admiral Dorg is better at fleet organization. I see now that we are going to need everything we posses to win this war.” Kosiev then smiled and said, “We’ll talk about it after I take care of those six ships.” Kosiev then turned off his com.
Dorg ordered, “Mikado, give me a feed from those ships he’s after.”
The Algean ships broadcasting the frequency were 900,000 miles inside the jump limit clustered together to make their signal stronger. Suddenly one of the stranger’s ships came out of null drive at the band limit and began accelerating toward them. The Algeans didn’t worry; there were 1,800 ships between them and that single ship.
Tgon-Gee, Terl, and Misty joined Tag, Danielle, Dorg, and Mikado as they watched their displays. The Moscow accelerated at an incredible rate even for one of their Megaships. They could see that there was no screen around the ship only the two focused primary beams glowing sun bright in front of the ship. One beam would fire for four seconds and then the second would begin firing. Mikado said, “He’s overloading his reactors. They’ll only last another few minutes but he’ll cover that distance in less than two minutes at his current speed.” They watched as 800 ships converged to destroy that single ship. They fired a swarm of those new anti-matter missiles at it but it burned the ones in front out of existence and out ran those coming from the sides. Twenty ships tried to ram him but his overloaded reactors tripled the power of his primaries and they were burned out of his path. One huge plant hip blocked the Moscow’s path but the primaries burned a giant hole through the ship and the Moscow flew through the ship. Nothing could reach him from the sides; his ship was moving too fast. Finally fifty miles from the six ships his last reactor burned out and Kosiev launched twenty thousand penetrators programmed to hit their targets with 100 of their numbers. They watched the Moscow as it slowed and fifty of the anti-matter missiles struck it. The blast was unbelievable and when the screens cleared, nothing was left. Tag grabbed Danielle and held her close as they watched their friend die. Dorg sat and remembered all of his moments with Kosiev. This loss hurt as much as the memory of the Rossville Colonists. “I hope I can die as gloriously,” he thought then stood and sadly lowered his head for his former adversary and friend.
Mikado watched with a heavy heart as his former commander’s ship was destroyed but those penetrators got away and homed in on those six ships. Now they tried to escape but it was too late. The penetrators locked in on them and their new five force fields were blown away by the first seven penetrators that hit them. The remaining then locked on the Algean ships protecting the frequency ships and began killing them by the hundreds. The six ships were blown up so quickly that one moment they were there and the next they no longer existed. Mikado’s sensor officer said, “Star drive is back on line.”
Mikado knew that they had to jump quickly before the Plants jumped in more frequency ships but then he noticed that the Plants had left more than 130,000 ships outside the jump limit and he suspected that they were going to follow their jump to track them back to their home world. “Send all ships our jump coordinates in Gamma,” Mikado ordered. “Attention all ships and forts, I’ve just sent you the coordinates I want you to jump to in the gamma galaxy. I believe that we will be followed. As soon as you come into normal space, release half of your inventory of penetrators set for thirty. Then jump to your individually assigned jumps and fire the other half at your second jump. Then make your third jump and wait to see if anything is able to follow you. If there is, you can’t jump home until you lose them. Set your penetrators, prepare to jump, Execute.”
The Plant fleet moving in system at high speed had reached 1000 miles from the planet and launched a missile salvo of a million missiles at the forts surrounding the planet. The missiles were halfway to their targets when every ship and rock circling the planet disappeared. There was nothing to stop the missiles so they continued to the planet and totally burned everything on it in anti-matter fire. The planet actually cracked in the middle of one of the smaller continents and the core of the planet blew up thru the surface causing huge earthquakes and then the escaping core burned the atmosphere. The planet disappeared under a black cloud cover and shook in its death throes. The Half Fleet leader watched his video grimly, “There was a whole continent of food source not harvested.” Then he watched it all burn. “There’s going to be hunger in the fleet,” He thought. “Perhaps the Leaders might want to rethink their attack plans at the next planet.”
Mikado’s 3,000 surviving ships came out of null space and ejected 1,300 penetrators each; the forts released another two million then all the ships and forts jumped to their second jump coordinates leaving 6 million penetrators behind. Ten seconds after the SR fleet disappeared; the 130,000 plant ships came out of null space trying to read their jump tracks. They had the misfortune to come out in the middle of 6 million penetrators. Unfortunately for the Algean ships, they did not have any coordinates in their star drives because they were going to load in what they tracked from the stranger’s ships. The three seconds that it took to load in any coordinates was two seconds too long. Every Algean ship was less than a mile from a hundred of the high powered penetrators when they emerged from their jump and the penetrators only took one second to lock on and another half second to hit. All 130,000 ships were destroyed. The explosions also erased any drive tracks the Stranger’s had left. The ships that followed up on their tracking ships only found wreckage. The first 750 follow up ships had the misfortune to jump into that cloud of penetrators and ended up like the first 130,000. After no response, a Plant Leader finally suggested jumping to a different coordinate close by. The Algean Leaders were once again frustrated in trying to track where the Strangers were coming from.
The Leaders were elated at their victory, but now they did not know where to go to continue their success. The Elder said, ‘Get the explorer ships out. Look in that Galaxy they keep escaping to and start looking to see if there is another planet in our galaxy they are using. Find them before they can counter our advantage.”
Another Elder said, “We can’t do anything even if we found them now.”
The Eldest said, “Why is that so?”
The Strangers lost a hundredth fleet to our missiles. We lost almost a third of our new ships when we tried to track them. Those ships have to be replaced and it will take half a planetary cycle to complete them.”
The Eldest stood waving in the wind pondering what he had just heard then said, “Making the new ships will do us no good if we don’t know where to send them. Use all of our old ships to search and hold the new fleet together to attack when we find them. Now that they know about our new ships and the frequency generators, we have to find them quickly before they develop technology to defeat us. We can’t give the Strangers time.”
All of the Plant Leaders stood silent waving in the wind contemplating what the strangers might come up with next.
There was sadness and grief among the members of the Stars Realm at the loss of their most decorated and famous Admiral. The loss of the battle was secondary to the weight of losing Admiral Alexander Kosiev. The video of his death was shown to the citizens of the Stars Realm and they all saw the bravery of Kosiev and the crew of the Moscow. Director Misty Nicole ordered a memorial built in Central City surrounded by parks to give honor to the Admiral and crew of the Moscow for their sacrifice. Queen Danielle Gardner issued an edict that Admiral Kosievs statue would be the central feature of the new Fleet academy that would forever forward bear his name. Kosiev became the first Human to win the Solar Star three times. He was the first recipient of the Crimson Crown which the Queen decreed would be the Stars Realm’s highest award for bravery. The medal was placed in clear armor on his statue with a description of his action and listed all the members of his crew that died with him to save those trapped at the planet.
Admiral Dorg, Tag, Danielle, and Admiral Mikado sat on board the Rossville in orbit above Ross. Admirals Kelly and Chen were also present on display along with Tgon-Gee, Terl, Misty Nicole, and Sten. All of them had bags of popcorn in one hand and the drink of their choice in the other. They had spent the last two hours reminiscing of their memories of Kosiev. Tag told them about when the Vgrig Warleader was allowed to escape and to make it look real missiles had been fired that came remarkably close to hitting the escaping ship before it jumped. “Kosiev had laughed so hard he could barely breathe,” Tag said, “Finally he got out that the Warleader had probably opened a porthole and pushed some of the missiles away.” Everyone laughed and they ate their popcorn and missed their comrade and friend.
Danielle then stood and said, “The name Moscow will never be assigned to another ship. It will be retired and will be the symbol of courage. From now on the Crimson Crown Medal will be placed above the shape of a Megaship with the name Moscow on it. His medal will be the only one ever given with just the Crown.”
The room started clapping and Danielle said, “I hereby order it by Royal Decree and the first recipient of the new medal will be Admiral Smith.” The room cheered her decision and for a moment their sadness was held at bay.