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Authors: David Sherman

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Issue In Doubt

BOOK: Issue In Doubt
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ISSUE IN DOUBT

Table of Contents

Title Page

Issue In Doubt

PROLOG: FIRST CONTACT

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

About the Author

Dark Quest Books

by David Sherman

GET HER BACK!

(A DEMONTECH NOVELLA)

 

Dark Quest Books

including David Sherman

So It Begins

By Other means

Best Laid Plans

Dogs of War

 

PUBLISHED BY

DTF Publications

an imprint of Dark Quest, LLC

Neal Levin, Publisher

23 Alec Drive,

Howell, New Jersey 07731

www.darkquestbooks.com

Copyright ©2013, David Sherman

 

ISBN (trade paper): 978-1-937051-46-4

All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.

All persons, places, and events in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, places, or events is purely coincidental.

 

Copyediting: Keith R.A. DeCandido

Design: Mike and Danielle McPhail

Cover Art: Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics

www.mcp-concepts.com

www.milscifi.com

This book is dedicated to the memory of:

Corporal John F. Mackie

The first US Marine to earn

The Medal of Honor;

At the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff

PROLOG: FIRST CONTACT

McKinzie Elevator Base, Outside Millerton,

Semi-Autonomous World Troy

 

Samuel Rogers jerked when he heard the beeping of the proximity alert. He spun in his chair to look at the approach displays and his jaw dropped. With one hand he toggled the space-comm to hail the incoming ship, with the other he reached for the local comm to call Frederick Franklin, his boss.

Franklin sounded groggy when he answered. “This better be good, Rogers. I just got to sleep.”

“Sorry, Chief, but are we expecting any starships? One just popped up half an AU north. Uh oh.”

“No, we aren’t expecting anyone. And what do you mean, ‘uh oh’?”

“Chief—” Rodgers’ voice broke and he had to start again. “Chief, data coming in says the incoming starship is three klicks wide.”

“Bullshit,” Franklin snapped. “There aren’t any starships that big!”

“I know. It’s got to be an asteroid. And it’s on an intercept vector.”

“There aren’t any asteroids north.” Franklin’s voice dropped to a barely intelligible mumble. “North, that would explain how it ‘just popped up.’” Indistinct noises sounded to Rogers like his boss was getting dressed. “Have you tried to hail her?”

“The same time I called you. But half an AU. . .”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Stand by, I’m on my way.”

“Standing by.” Rogers sounded relieved.

Franklin burst into the spaceport’s operations room and headed straight for the approach displays. In seconds he absorbed the data, and let out a grunt.

“Any reply yet?” he asked.

Rogers shook his head. “Too soon, Chief.”

Franklin grimaced; he should have realized that and not have asked such a dumb question. The starship—asteroid, whatever—was half an Astronomical Unit out, half the distance from old Earth to Sol. It would take about four minutes for the hail to reach the incoming object, and another four minutes for a reply to come back. Plus however much time it would take for whoever it was to decide to answer the hail. The two men watched the data display as time ticked by.

After watching for another fifteen minutes, with no reply, and nothing but confirmation as to its velocity, vector, and probable impact time, Franklin decided to kick the problem upstairs.

“Office of the President.” James Merton’s voice was thick when he answered the president’s comm; the night duty officer must have been dozing.

“Jim, Fred here. We’ve got a situation that requires some attention from the boss.”

“Can it wait until morning? Bill’s had a long day, and he’s dead to the world.”

“Come morning, it might be too late to do anything.”

“Come on, Fred,” Merton said. “No offense intended, but you’re an elevator operator. What kind of earth-shattering problem can you possibly have?”

“Exactly that: a literally earth-shattering problem. There’s a large object on an intercept course. That’s large, as in planet-buster. It’ll be here in less than a standard day.”

There was a momentary silence before Merton asked, “You aren’t kidding, are you?”

“I wish. Stand by for the data.” Franklin nodded to Rogers, who transmitted a data set to the president’s office. A minute later, Franklin and Rogers heard Merton swear under his breath.

“You called it, something that big really is a planet buster, isn’t it?” the duty officer asked.

“Unfortunately,” Franklin answered.

“Now, according to the data you sent me, the object is metallic, and it seems to have the density of a starship rather than the density of an asteroid. Am I reading those figures right?”

“You’re reading right ,” Franklin said. “But nobody makes starships that big.”

“At least nobody we know of,” Rogers murmured. “Have you tried to contact it, I mean, in case it
is
a starship?”

“Yes, we did.” Franklin looked at Rogers, who held up four fingers. “Four times. No response.”

“And you’re sure it’s on a collision course?”

Franklin shivered. “Absolutely.”

“Keep trying to make contact. I’ll wake the president.”

An hour and a half later, a three-man Navy rescue team under the command of Lieutenant (j.g.) Cyrus Hayden, rode the elevator up to Base 1, in geosynchronous orbit, where they boarded the tender
John Andrews
totake a closer look at the rapidly approaching object. If it was a starship their orders were to again attempt radio contact. If she did not reply, to attempt to board her. If the object was an unusual asteroid, Hayden and his men were to plant a nuclear device on its side, then back off to a safe distance before detonating the bomb. It was hoped that the explosion would deflect the object’s course enough to avoid the collision that was looking more certain with each passing minute.

The North American Union Navy tender
John Andrews
was still 100,000 kilometers from the object when laser beams lanced out from it and shredded the tender.

Twenty shocked minutes later, the orbital lasers of Troy’s defensive batteries shot beams of coherent light. The only effect the lasers seemed to have on the object, which was now obviously a warship from some unknown people, was to provide the enemy with the location of the defensive weapons. Within minutes, all of Troy’s orbital laser batteries were knocked out by counter-battery fire from the enemy starship. It had committed an act of war when it vaporized the
John Andrews
, hadn’t it? Didn’t that make it the enemy?

When the enemy starship was a quarter million kilometers out, it fired braking rockets, which slowed its speed and altered its vector enough to reach high orbit rather than colliding with the planet. Small objects began flicking off it and heading toward the surface.

Ground-based laser and missile batteries began firing at the small vessels. The mother-ship killed those batteries as easily as she had killed the orbital batteries.

Shortly after that the first landers made planetfall, and reports of wholesale slaughter began coming in, William F. Lukes, President of Troy, ordered all the data they had on the invasion uploaded onto drones and the drones launched: Destination Earth.

The unidentified enemy killed the first several drones, but stopped shooting them when it became obvious that they were running away rather than attacking.

Two days later, four of the drones reached the Sol System via wormhole. It took ten more days for a North American Union Navy frigate to pick one of them up and carry it to Garroway Base on Mars, from where its coded message was transmitted to the NAU’s Supreme Military Headquarters on Earth.

Chapter One

Supreme Military Headquarters, Bellevue, Sarpy County, Federal Zone, North American Union

 

Major General Joseph H. de Castro swept past the guards standing outside the entrance to the offices of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and marched through the cavernous, darkly paneled outer office directly to the desk of Colonel Nicholas Fox, which sat below the colors of all the military services of the NAU.

“Nick,” de Castro said, “I need to see the Chairman, right now. I don’t care who he’s meeting with.”

Fox leaned back in his chair and looked up at de Castro with mild curiosity. “Joe, you know I can’t let people just barge in on the Chairman.” He shook his head. “His schedule today is packed tighter than a constipated jarhead. Maybe if he stops by the Flag Club later on, you can get a minute or two with him. Can’t help you, Joe.” Fox then looked intently at his console, as though he had pressing business to attend to. His behavior was insubordinate, but in this office, acting in his official capacity as gatekeeper to the Chairman, he effectively outranked anybody with fewer than four stars, and de Castro had only two.

“If you knew what I have here,” de Castro tapped the right breast pocket of his uniform jacket, “you wouldn’t be wasting my time. I’d already be telling the Chairman what I’ve got.”

“So tell me what you’ve got. I’ll decide if it’s important enough to disrupt the Chairman’s schedule.”

De Castro glowered at Fox for a few seconds, then said, steely-voiced, “Have it your way, Nick. You can explain to the Chairman why I had to jump the chain.” He about-faced to march out, but Fox stopped him before he’d taken more than two steps.

“Wait a minute, Joe. What do you mean, ‘jump the chain’?”

De Castro half turned back. “I’m going fifty paces. This can’t wait.” Fifty paces was the distance from where he was to the offices of the Secretary of War.

“You wouldn’t!” Fox said, shocked.

“I will.”

Colonel Fox opened his mouth to say something more, but thought for a couple of seconds before he spoke. “Wait one,” he said, and tapped his desk comm, the direct line to the Chairman’s inner sanctum.

“Sir,” he said apologetically when the Chairman came on, “Major General de Castro is here. He says he has something that requires the Secretary’s immediate attention.” He paused to listen, answered, “No sir, he won’t tell me what it is.” Another pause to listen. “I’ll tell him, sir.” He looked at de Castro. “He’ll see you in a minute or so.”

De Castro faced the door leading deeper into the Chairman’s offices, and stood at ease, patiently waiting. A moment later, the door opened and de Castro snapped to attention. Fleet Admiral Ira Clinton Welborn, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ushered out a man de Castro recognized as Field Marshal Carl Ludwig, Welborn’s counterpart in the European Union’s military. Welborn was making placating noises, and assuring Ludwig that he would have dinner with him at the Flag Club that evening.

As soon as the EU’s military chief was gone, Welborn turned on de Castro and snarled. “This better be good. I’ve been getting close to a diplomatic breakthrough with that martinet, and you might have just bollixed it!”

“It is, sir,” de Castro said in a strong voice.

“Follow.” Welborn headed back to his inner sanctum. De Castro followed a pace behind and slightly to Welborn’s left. The two marched along a darkly wainscoted corridor with offices branching off to both sides, toward a wider space at the end, where a navy petty officer sat at a desk working on a comp. Two Marines in dress blues, a first lieutenant and a gunnery sergeant, both armed with holstered sidearms, stood at parade rest flanking the doorway to the inner sanctum. The two came to attention at Welborn’s approach. De Castro couldn’t help but notice that the gunnery sergeant had several more rows of ribbons on his chest than he himself did, and the lieutenant had nearly as many as the gunny. It was obvious that the Marines were from the combat arms.

“Siddown,” Welborn snapped as the petty officer began to stand. She did and returned to her work. “Close it,” he snarled at the Marines. The door to the inner sanctum closed silently behind de Castro when the two swept past.

Inside was an office only slightly less opulent than that of the Secretary of War himself. Its walls were covered with pictures of warships: paintings, engravings, lithographs, photographs, and holograms. Wooden ships: with rams and oars; with sails; with sails and cannon; iron clad with sails; iron clad with sails and steam engines. Steel ships: with guns in turrets, aircraft carriers with and without turrets and missiles. Space-going warships.

BOOK: Issue In Doubt
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