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(Kemdra, Kembra.. whichever, it's a rough draft!)
The underground train traveled a great distance around Sync until it was underneath part of one of the two great seas of the planet. The Free Republic had never known about the train, it was a recent development and there were very few of them. They didn't need infrastructure such as rails or tunnels, they seemed to be analogous to bending space but on a small scale. Tom Grier didn't really understand it, but he was trying to think about something else.
Sync had fooled the Free Republic into thinking it had destroyed its entire fleet of ships. The only ships that Sync possessed were the type that landed on planets, nothing like the monstrous warships such as the carrier Umbrage that stalked it at that moment. Instead the Free Republic had destroyed aging, mothballed ships that had been remodeled to fool sensor scans, seeming to be the newer ships.
Those newer ships had been hidden, mostly under the ocean. The ships were being prepared by the rebel forces for what Tom thought was a suicide mission. Not only were they to get close enough to attack the Umbrage, but to board it and cripple or destroy it. A tall order to be sure, but one that Tom did not think could possibly come to fruition, even with the rebel technologies.
Tom and the other soldiers were not wearing their powered-armor suits, which had been stored in their own train car. Kembra and Sandy had been spending a lot of time chatting and giggling, still acting like girls even in these circumstances. Their father, Enoch, came around every so often with tea or snacks. It was hard to believe that the figure-head of Syncrian independence was acting like a servant aboard the train.
Finally Enoch sat next to Tom. “Well, we are going to be arriving at the destination soon and I was thinking that you should be the one to lead the attack,” the old man said.
“I'm not a leader, I've only just become part of the rebellion. Besides, I think the attack is probably still a bad idea,” Tom told him, “Sandy is group leader.”
Enoch shook his head, “My daughter has her position and her role. She has no experience out there, it would be insane to think she should lead this particular mission. Tom, rank has its role too, but this is one of the times where it is not a determinant factor.”
Tom didn't see Enoch stand up, stretch and then walk away. Several scenarios of trying to infiltrate the carrier ran through his head. None of them seemed likely to succeed. Many things would have to go wrong for the enemy in order for this attack to work. The ships null field should keep any atomic charges from exploding, just as it renders most energy weapons useless. These were side affects of a device originally created to protect ships during trans-spatial travel.
The train slowed and then stopped. When Tom exited with everyone else, he saw that he was in a cavern larger than he ever thought possible. It occurred to him that some kind of Syncrian technology must have formed and maintained this under-sea base. He could see the six ships lined up and buildings and ground crews running around.
Kembra saw his face and explained, “It's just shield technology times ten. Instead of expanding the shield range, we fortified it. Since this meant that only a small area could be shielded, we use many of them.”
“The ships are larger than I imagined from the images.”
Kembra shook her head, “They are smaller than any of the capital ships in the Free Republic fleet, but they suit Sync just fine. We just want independence, we don't want our own empire or anything.”
Each ship had two energy cannon turrets, one on the top and one on the bottom. Each turret fired two beams at a time. These were to be used against the Onyx Flight fighters that the Umbrage would launch against them, as well as against the torpedoes and rail guns that many ships in the fleet carried.
For attacking the Umbrage with its nullification field activated, the attacking forces would have to use its own torpedoes and projectile weapons. Energy weapons would not be useful against the carrier until that null-field was down.
The rebels believed their technology would cloak their ships from fleet sensors until they were close enough to be safe from long-range weapons. Tom was doubtful but he had to take it into consideration that it might work that way.
Getting individual armor-suited fighters aboard the carrier was not going to happen by stealth. At least one the rebel ships was going to have to target the cargo decks to create an opening. If the same ship started off by attacking the fighter and shuttle bays, the enemy might not suspect that the cargo bays were hit on purpose.
Once the armor-suited fighters, Tom thought of them as Rebel Marines, were on-board the carrier they would need to make their way quickly to the forward and aft engineering sections about halfway between the “bottom” and “top” of the ship. This is where the gravity control pillars and power distribution nodes were located, the massive vessel would become crippled without them.
Of course, the atomic charges were not likely to work, as Tom figured. There would be need of another way to take these things out. All of this had to be done before the Free Republic Marines showed up because Tom did not think his side could win that fight. Trying to use the jamming device Sandy had used on Tom wouldn't work on the carrier. Way too much electromagnetic activity would be happening.
“We will have skeleton crews on the ships. There is no good reason to risk more lives than is necessary,” Kembra had said, “Two of the ships will be used to transport your infiltration team, the others will continue to attack while you are inside.”
Tom shook his head, “No.”
Kembra looked alarmed, “No? What do you mean by that?”
“Once the team has infiltrated the carrier, our ships should get out of there. Get as far away from the Umbrage as possible,” Tom said, “Continuing the attack is too big a risk, and there is no guarantee that the infiltration team will survive.”
Kembra looked down, “That's just...”
“I'm not just being pessimistic. The ships need to withdraw immediately if it looks like we can't infiltrate or after we do infiltrate,” Tom said, “Otherwise this whole mission will be useless. If we do manage to survive and cripple the carrier, we will find a way back down if possible.”
Kembra grinned, “Just remember that your armored suits are not rated for re-entry.”
Tom smiled, “The landing would be especially rough.”
His crush on Kembra had been pushed aside by her brusque attitude when they had first met, but he was getting used to that now. Otherwise she reminded him of Maggie, at least somewhat, which explained a lot in his mind.
“If you plan to do something stupid, try to give us a little warning,” Kembra told him and she looked around, “Want to see something special?”
After he assented she dragged him to a vehicle and drove across the underground cavern to the far side were a large hangar housed another ship. It was longer but narrower and the outer hull was shiny silver, without any of the protective plating of the military vessels.
“It's a family ship. My father had this built a long time ago, but it has hardly been used. If Sync can regain its independence it could be used for diplomatic purposes,” she explained, “I remember spending some time living in this thing even though it was on the ground. The independence movement had been crushed and things looked grim.”
“So your family used it as a hideout?” Tom asked.
“We lived in it while we learned and trained. The independence movement morphed into an armed struggle with the Free Republic becoming an oppressive regime.”
Tom nodded, times weren't good anywhere. The new regime had instituted laws and economic decrees that defied common sense. Every planet was now battling poverty, much of the economic and industrial base was simply gone.
“The Free Republic hasn't built a new carrier since it became an empire, it can't afford to. It has built precious few new ships of any type because resources are dwindling and they'd rather use it to oppress than build,” Kembra said, “If we can take out the Umbrage, Tom, it will send the regime reeling.”
She led him up the steps and into the ship.
“This ship has no weapons, it was never meant to be a warship. It was going to be a family yacht and this over here was my room.”
It was clean, the bed had been made and a small stuffed animal he couldn't name sat on the pillow.
“Cute,” Tom said, “Any particular reason you're showing me this?”
“Don't get your hopes up, Tom, I'm not planning to get involved with any relationship while the war is going on. The Sync War for Independence at least,” She told him. Well, she knew he had a thing for her, so much for that secret.
Of course if Sync achieved independence then other worlds would try to follow. If the Free Republic loses the Umbrage, it would lose prestige.
“It won't end here, Sync would still be at risk until the Free Republic is toppled. If we succeed here, we still have to make sure that the Free Republic is too busy elsewhere to bother trying to return. I plan to help foment rebellion on other worlds afterward,” Kembra told him, “This vessel, an unarmed civilian ship that the Free Republic doesn't know will be used by me. I was hoping you would come with me, assuming you don't get yourself killed.”
“Go with you?” Tom asked, “How would I not get my hopes up, if you say things like that?”
Kembra took something from a drawer and handed it to him. It was a locket. When he opened it a holographic projection appeared above it of Kembra and Sandy on a beach, playing in the sand.
“Take this with you as a good luck charm.”
He grinned, “Cheesy.”
Enoch was addressing the pilots and gunners of the six ships, “Finally, the time has come. The plan that Tom Grier and others have devised has been gone over for the past few days. Our armored warriors have practiced their infiltration and you all know what is expected. Now, with the blessing of the creator of the universe, it is time to initiate our first attack against the fleet itself.”
There was silence.
“To your stations!” Enoch said and everyone began moving.
Tom climbed into the rear gate of the designated ship with seven other armored fighters, the ones he had come to know and trust over the past few days. Then he pressed the switch which closed the hatch.
Umbrage, Marine deck
“I can't believe that the crazy old fool has gone this far,” Colonel Mortimer said examining the sealed hatch that blocked the corridor. The Marines with him stood aside as General Gallant came to join him.
“Well?” The General asked, “What happened?”
Mortimer shook his head, “They completely sealed off the decks. We have no access to the rest of the ship, just our own decks, and the chutes to the shuttles in Bay 2. That Admiral has lost it. I don't think he has much grip on reality left.”
A Marine added, “We tried using the laser cutters, but they're jamming them like energy weapons. They have increased the jamming just locally.”
“We can break through these seals, right?” General Gallant said, “With our weapons, if we must.”
The Colonel nodded, “I suppose, but I don't like the idea of using weapons on the ship. I'm sure the quad-barrel battle rifles can break through with their explosive round, but it's explosive for one thing.”
Admiral Robinson was going too far. With most of his Marines on Sync and much of his staff combing through the Dispensation with Lt General Edwards, there was little that could be done.
“We'll just ignore this for now. Inform the men that they are not to try to cross into the other decks at all.” The General said and the men nodded, saluted and departed.
The Colonel came up beside him and they headed back toward the Command & Control center.
“Anything from Edwards?” The Colonel asked.
“A mess. They've mostly been cleaning the ship but they did manage to pull some security video from the trashed computers. Just a few seconds, but it was enough,” General Gallant said, “Some places weren't as trashed as others. There is evidence that someone was brought in as a medical emergency, although why we weren't alerted I don't know.”
The Colonel frowned, “No sign of that patient?”
Gallant nodded, “Not among the dead, which makes that patient the top suspect. There is a fleeting glimpse of his reflection a few frames of video. We have not yet identified him, though.”
Whoever he was, he managed to incapacitate enough people to reach the prototype and steal it. Then the person was able to disable the ship and slaughter everyone aboard before leaving without a trace.
The prototype was a very deadly weapon, it was one of the few real advances made since the new regime had come to power. Of course it had been made in complete secrecy, especially from the regime.
As they entered the control center, they noted how few officers were left aboard.
“Sir! General, something is happening out there.” Maddie Anders reported as they entered.
“What is it?”
She shook her head, “I'm not sure. We've been cut off from ship sensors and the like. It looks like they've launched every fighter they had aboard.”
The Colonel growled, “I hope the Admiral isn't trying to commit any atrocities.”
Another one of the Control officers came to them, “Sir, I contacted the Dispensation and asked them to patch us into their sensor network. It should be coming in any minute.”
“Good idea.” General Gallant said.
Maggie Anders furiously changed the settings on her console. “Check this out.”
She pointed to the reading on her screen, “There seems to be some kind of anomaly. There are intermittent signal distortions that have come up from the planet and is now heading straight for the Umbrage.”
The General looked at the Colonel, “Is it some weapon we haven't seen before?”
The Colonel shook his head, “I don't think Sync has any stealth missiles, besides they would have used them a long time ago. We took out their anti-orbital weapons at the start of the operation.”
“Onyx Flight is closing in on the distortion,” Maggie informed them, “Of course we are cut off from seeing whatever they see.”
The sixteen blips reached the outline of the distortion area on the sensors.
Syncrian Infiltration Force, lead ship
“Opening fire!” Tom Grier heard the ships gunner announce. A small screen on the wall told them what was happening. Onyx Flight was inbound. The fleet hadn't been fooled by the rebel stealth technology after all.
Suddenly the ship turned fast enough that even through his heavy armored suit, which was almost anchored by magnetic plating, he could feel it.
“The Umbrage is firing blindly in our direction!” the coms officer in the cockpit said, “Okay, concentrate fire... now!”
Having no control over what was going on didn't make Tom feel like a leader. If it looked bad enough he could tell them to abort, that's about all the control he had at that point. The pilots knew what they were doing though, several choices were open to them.
“Option D sounds good right now!” Tom told the ships coms officer.
Tom waited for the message to be sent to the ships. They would all change course immediately after ship six dropped its stealth field. Ship six only had a pilot and gunner, otherwise it was more heavily armed than the others.
He felt the tug of the course change. On the screen he watched ship six falling back and flipping over, the rear hatch opening at the same time. Onyx Flight fighters closed in on it like cats pouncing on a mouse.
Out of the rear hatch more than a dozen stealthy torpedoes launched at the nearby fighters. The fighters tried to change course or, more realistically, shoot at the incoming torpedoes. Still, they had little time since they were so close. More than half the fighters sustained damage while three had been completely obliterated.
Ship six continued to fire its energy weapons and rail guns at the fighters, which began trying to pull back. Two of the Onyx Flight fighters continued to attack the ship which was now moving away, as if to escape back to the planet below. It was leading them even farther away from the carrier.
Tom was relieved but also distressed that his plan put the lives of two brave people into direct jeopardy and now everyone else too.
“The target will be in range in thirty seconds!”
Twenty seconds after that, as the plan said, it would be time to break through and infiltrate the Umbrage. Plans very often went awry of course, upon first contact with the enemy.
All five of the remaining ships began firing their projectile weapons as they approached the massive carrier.
“Okay, let's get into position,” Tom ordered, turning to face the rear hatch.
“Ship Five has taken heavy damage to the engines!”
Tom turned back to the screen on the wall. The carrier was firing blindly into the distortion field created by the rebels null-field. As he watched he could see ship five, it was rolling sideways and then it changed course.
Ship Five slammed into the top-most deck of the Umbrage where a lot of large observation windows had been located. It tore into the extended deck and lodged inside. Tom Grier waited a couple seconds but there was no explosion.
“Tell ship two that I think they have a new alternate infiltration point!”
Umbrage, Admirals office
The door opened and a breathless officer entered, “Admiral!”
He had heard the alarms and had been informed that Onyx Flight had engaged an enemy vessel from the surface already. Since then he had been taking a quick nap.
“What is it?” He asked, looking down to activate the holographic screen of his hovering chair.
“We're under attack!”
“The Umbrage is under attack by stealth ships. One of them has crashed into the observation deck, causing three deaths and the loss of some atmosphere.”
Admiral James “Jim” Robinson started turning red in the face. “Have the Assyrian move in closer to give us extra cover. Have the ship placed on General Quarters, why is it not already?”
“Your standing orders was that only you can do that,” the officer stammered.
“Get it done. I'm on my way to the bridge!”
---- Chapter Eleven
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