Mar 22nd 2249
Geosynchronous Orbit above the Torian world of Lentzlandians I
‘All is ready Sir’ were the terse words from my Chief of Staff, a gruff Arcean called Trat’har Hu. Never normally the cheeriest even for an Arcean, at this moment in time his demeanour was particularly grim.
‘Very good Colonel-very good’
I surveyed the Torian world from the panoramic view port of my Flagship. All around us were TADF ships: the six battleships belonging to General Maida’s now famous M’rak Ho Battlegroup fresh from clearing the defences of this and its sister planet, Lentzlandians V several parsecs away. Amongst them, like lambs being sheparded by their sheepdogs were twelve ungainly but huge marine transports. Each could carry 1000 Marine Battalions, roughly a million men. We reckoned that three or four would pacify a PQ12 world; we were not about to leave anything to chance here, though. All twelve transports were to take part in this first attack on the Torian main worlds.
Much as I hated to admit it, as I prepared to enter the ship’s Ops centre and observe the Marine assault, today had been a momentous day in my life. During the winter of ‘48/9 with the Torian fleets split and seemingly totally incapable of offering any sort of massed resistance we had slowly began to believe, within the TADF Command, that the war would see us prevail. Our sense of impending victory was reinforced by the sustained attacks by General Song’s Chester A Arthur Battlegroup on several Torian fleets-all had been destroyed: some ten battleships, five dreadnoughts, four frigates and a number of fighters and escorts were utterly annihilated by Song’s ultra aggressive force. Every time I had watched Song go into battle I had felt physically sick as I worried for my son but all the signs were that in Song we had a truly exceptional Force Commander, whilst in my son the Fleet had a singular Gunnery Officer-what is more Song knew just how to use him. Right now Song had paused just long enough to pick up a replacement for the TASS Harry S Truman that had been crippled beyond repair in their last action and was now pushing his warp engines to full capacity to intercept another large enemy force moving east to west from the middle of DL4.
And in the early hours of that morning I had managed a quick holo chat with my son-he seemed tired but was, as ever, in good spirits,
‘Well met Dad!’ he had shouted as the image and the sound crackled and fizzled-this time the interference was caused by the fact his ship was in warp. Song had a heart though and had slowed the fleet down for an hour for all hands with the latest holo-mobiles to contact their loved ones.
‘Or should I say well met Marshall, Sir!’ he added grinning impishly but with unrestrained pride.
I had been notified just after midnight by the Office of The President that, amazingly, I was to be promoted. My new rank: Space Marshall of the TADF. There had never been one before so it was a singular honour. When Dr Amponsah himself had contacted me to congratulate me I had actually choked up in front of all my staff. With the rank was a new medal, the TA Duranthium Cross (TADC), a medal often only awarded posthumously but one which the powers that be now felt that I merited.
‘You are the embodiment of the Terran fighting spirit Marshall’ the President had said warmly ‘and never has our great civilisation owed so much to the unstinting efforts of one man-congratulations.’
The applause within HQ was absolutely deafening-officers and ratings and civilians of all races and hues were on their feet, some on tables, all clapping and cheering and shouting. I was totally overwhelmed, tears streaming down my face. And all I could think was that my husband would have been so proud. After what seemed like an eternity I composed myself and raised my hands for silence.
‘Servicemen and women of the Terran Alliance, Mr President-my friends, Ministers. What can I say? It has been a strange six months-a tiring and tense one for sure. It has been a time of loss and of fear. But we have prevailed and we are WINNING!’
The cheers and noise exploded once more until once more I signalled for quiet, ‘I accept this honour and this medal not for me, but for all of you and for all of those that we have known and loved who are not here to witness the final flowering of our race and our Alliance as we prevail against our last known enemy and bring pace terra-a Terran peace to the whole of the galaxy!’
And so began what was to be probably the proudest day of my life. My son was irreverently reminding me of this as we spoke and chatted. He was a bright one this Starla of mine-we had created someone very special. His name was already down in General Hias Pzientho, my number 2’s in-tray-commended for the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for the devastating control of his ship’s missile spreads and the way that time and again they had got his fleet out of trouble. He was so good that Song had put the Iron Duke on permanent weapons free status-an unheard of development but one that made a lot of sense in the circumstances.
‘You take good care of yourself Captain Starla Mormon’ I had said quietly at the end of our chat.
‘You too Dad-er I mean you as well Marshall Mormon-SIR!’ and with a sharp salute he broke the link.
So here we were-I headed for the Ops room where Marine General Dick Ward had set up shop for the invasion ahead. The room was packed being not half the size of my HQ Ops room or even the bridge of one of our Battleships-it would do though. I smiled as I remembered the last time that I had used the Mayflower’s Situation Room ‘in anger’ was when we attacked the Dread Lords on Almada.
‘I take it that you are set General?’ I had asked.
General Ward had hardly glanced up ‘we are Marshall-now if you’ll excuse me’
I had taken the hint-I was to observe only-best leave the ground soldiering to the grunts. It was another proud moment as we watched the drop ships spinning off from the Transports and spiralling into the atmosphere-there were thousands of them. Almost immediately anti invasion defences opened up from the surface but the drop ships were too small and too fast to accurately target. What’s more Maida’s warships’ Gunnery officers had set their missiles for counter battery fire and the instant guns on the surface opened up they were targeted and soon after a swarm of Locksteed XVs were following the drop ships down to the surface.
(Photo From Terran War Archive: Dropships descending on Lentzlandians I during Terran/Torian war 23rd Century)
‘Hotel two zero-target the Atuan peninsular-one zero is off course’ came the smooth, calm commands from Ward as he orchestrated the attack. We listened, rapt, as the first reports of resistance started filtering in. Generally it was as expected but our Tir-Qu’an trained Marines were more than a match for the Torian ground forces and were soon on the front foot.
After a few hours I had seen enough-there was no doubt that we would prevail but subjugating a whole planet was not a quick job and so I determined to go and get some rest and rejoin the mission in a few hours time.
When I came back, however, there was pandemonium-officers were running here and there and a lot of shouting was going on.
‘What the hell is going on?’ I demanded and noted with concern that there was no sign of Ward or any of the rest of his top brass. ‘Who the hell is in charge here?’
One of my own Aides came running up ‘Sir-disaster planet-side. The apparent weakness of the resistance was a ploy. They had 200 Battalions of Special Forces clustered around their east pole-they have decimated the Marines. Ward and his staff took off by shuttle to take personal control of the battle!’
‘What the frak!’ I cursed ‘Where’s Captain Siriu-la?’ And as I said it the craft banked violently and flashes lit up the darkness outside. I had grabbed the nearest commlink and keyed the button for the Bridge.
‘Siriu-la here-whoever that is alert the Marshall we have three Torian Dreadnoughts amongst us like a cat amongst pigeons and no protection-‘
‘This is Mormon-Captain I am coming to the Bridge-wait out!’ And we had staggered to the nerve centre of our flagship as it lurched from side to side-we felt the crash of at least two direct hits and the awful rending sound of the hull tearing.
(View from the Bridge of TASS Mayflower as Torian Warships assault the TADF Marine Transports taken from onboard Tac cam 2248hrs Zulu Mar 22nd 2249)
On arrival I took in the scene outside with the practised air of the veteran pilot that I was: to our front right were the remaining Transports and they were being attacked by two massive Torian Dreadnoughts. Sirius-la was in her command seat frantically giving orders to the helm as I observed with alarm that there was no sign of the third Dreadnought. I quickly occupied the 1st Officer’s seat ‘Captain where is the third Dreadnought?’
‘It’s below us Sir and bringing guns to bear-helm hard-a port-three degrees up-spin spin or we’re dead!’ The Iconian’s eyes were wild and staring as her mouth tentacles flayed in their universal gesture of fear
‘CAPTAIN! Pull yourself together! Your panic will spell our certain doom! Now tell me where is Maida?’
The Captain paused and momentarily composed herself. ‘Sir they were lured away by a decoy force-we don’t know where they came from-there were a number of medium capitol ships-frigates and Cruisers-it was enough-Maida took the bait. These Dreadnoughts then appeared from nowhere. Their 1st salvo disabled our warp engines-we are on impulse and thruster engines only Sir…’
‘By the Providence!’ This from Trat’har Hu-who was beside me gripping my armrest to stop from being thrown headlong as the ship took more hits.
‘Captain-hull integrity down to 40%-we can’t take many more hits’ this from the Tactical Officer.
I was racking my brains but time was running out then I suddenly worked out the only slim hope we had of survival. I disregarded the Captain and addressed the Midshipman at helm direct-there was simply no time for military etiquette. ‘Helm listen to me if you want to live: set a course and turn into the Dreadnought maximum impulse-get into her-do it now!’
‘You heard me sailor! DO IT NOW!’
The frightened helmsman obeyed turning our ship into the gaping maw of the gigantic Torian craft. I turned to the Captain, ‘Listen I know it seems like suicide but it’s our only hope-we have to get under the firing arc of their guns-if we get close enough they wont be able to depress their gun turrets far enough to hit us without hitting themselves-it’s the only chance we have’
Understanding flashed across Sirius-la’s face-maybe it could work ‘Tactical sitrep!’
More jolts as the guns continued their relentless barrage.
‘Integrity down to 15% Captain-we are closing on the enemy ship-distance to impact 500 metres and counting’
‘Sir-comms reports Maida’s Battlegroup returning to the fray-ETA 10 mins!’
‘We might not have 10 minutes comms!’ The frightened Iconian shouted above the sudden cheering ‘QUIET EVERYONE!’
And then there was silence around us as the Torian guns fell silent-our ploy was working.
We held our breaths.
‘For Frak’s sake pilot maintain this course-chances are that they can’t even see us-we only need hold long enough for Maida to get here.’ I breathed, not daring to hope.
Minutes seemed like hours as the pilot matched the lumbering Dreadnought’s every move-it soon became obvious that my plan had indeed worked-the enemy ship simply could no longer see us and even if they could there was no way they could engage us.
Then after what seemed like an eternity we were jolted sharply from our thoughts when the guns opened up again filling the Bridge with the loud crumps of their salvos. But it wasn’t us they were engaging-we could see explosions light up the space around us as missile trails flashing past-Maida was here.
The intercom crackled to life: ‘Marshall Mormon I believe? Maida here-better late than never eh Sir-let me help you-it looks like your ship is snuggling closer to that Torian ship than a Terat Whore!’
I allowed myself a wan smile-I could only wonder what the situation down on the planet itself was but the whole experience had been a sobering experience after the triumphalism of the morning. We had all realised that the Torian High Command were not about to give up without a fight……..