The Terpla'ns - Chapter 10.75

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The Terpla'ns - Chapter 10.75

Postby Zume on Tue 01 Sep 2020 13:37

Activity in the Bedrock system maintained its brisk pace. Bases, either new, prefabricated, or asteroid, were being assembled over Bedrock Prime. Mine patterns and weapon buoys continued to be placed at the Tire Iron and Circuit Run warp points. Even the asteroid fighter bases were being rebuilt, though their construction was slower due to the priority for the larger bases and forts. The core of a new space station was now complete, and additional construction slips were in the works.

In a private lounge on the space station were two AFC officers. Admiral Hovwen, commanding the carriers of Star Force 2, Third Advance Fleet, was at the wet bar, added ice to her glass before pouring in the scotch. With her was Star Admiral Mansel, commander of Star Force 2. Having drank earlier, the scotch in his glass was almost gone, so he decided to crush the remaining ice between his teeth. “Some good news this week,” Mansel said as he looked at Bedrock Prime from a large observation port. “Over 3,000 abom E’sani soldiers killed and two supply caches destroyed.”

“But we lost 1,000 of our own, and that’s not counting the civilian safari parties,” Hovwen replied as she joined him. The central jungles of the primary continent were in view, and she felt the humidity even at this distance. “It was dumb of Governor Lovcon to give them communicators to call for kinetic strikes. I bet over half of them called down fire on their own positions by accident.”

“I don’t doubt that, Hovwen. Enthusiasm is no replacement for training. At least more army troops will be arriving to further along the destruction of the abom. We, however, have far more pressing problems.” Mansel crushed an ice cube in his mouth. “Having expressed one opinion, go ahead and say the rest. You have my confidence.”

Hovwen took a draw of scotch. “Thank you. I can see the logic of pulling the task groups out of Connectors and Laser Burn to bolster the defenses here. But once the Hokum pinnace scout the Laser Burn warp point defenses, they’ll be tempted to resume the offensive. Geode will be reconquered and Smelter along with it. Even the Iron Sky system stands a chance to be taken.”

“Water in the river,” the Star Admiral replied. “Fleet Command sent a raiding group to disrupt the Hokum’s control in our systems they conquered. It should’ve been used to recover the Fallowed Field system, putting pressure on the Aboms in Tire Iron from two directions.”

Hovwen shook her glass lightly before taking another draw. “Or sent to Borehole to reclaim Citadel, blocking the Aboms in The Twins (the Axis name for the Kerama Retto system) and in Battlement to death from a lack of supplies. But like you said, water in the river. Any word if there will be counterattacks to reclaim Bandstand and Battlement?”

“No. Fleet Command is forting up the systems leading up to those two, and the mobile forces assigned to them now have a lower priority on reinforcements. The plan now is to stand on the defensive until a new fleet is built up for offensive operations.”

“Conquering the Hokum should be next, Star Admiral. Removing them from the mix will simplify our strategic planning. It’s something we should’ve done once we deduced they were a measurably smaller power than the abom Commonwealth.”

“If only Fleet Command focused more on the long term, Hovwen.” Mansel crushed another ice cube. “At least the new technologies our forces observed and recorded will be fast tracked.”

“What did we discover, exactly?”

“For one, an externally-carried scanner pack for fighters, along with definitive proof those anti-fighter missiles are standard size and not the point defense variety.”

Hovwen took a draw from her glass. “Having those missiles are at the top of my list. They’ll greatly increase the defensive envelope of our ships.”

“Something I look forward to as well.” The Star Admiral shook his glass. “There’s also the new shield generators and point defense system. Given what we’ve seen it’s logical to conclude there’s a capital version. Finally, there is the new type of mine, armed with antimatter. I’m sure that and the anti-fighter missile will get top priority.”

This time Hovwen downed the remaining scotch in her glass. “Good thing we’re no longer taking damn Eleto research. My pilots are only now accepting the life support packs. We practically had to reverse engineer them.”

Mansel crushed one more ice cube before dumping the rest in the wet bar’s sink. “Fresh destroyer and light cruiser squadrons will be arriving in five days from Gymnasium. My staff will devise exercises to bring them up to speed, including a simulated warp assault when they make transit. You will be part of it, so you best be off to your ship and take two carrier squadrons along.”

Hovwen finished her scotch and emptied the partially melted ice cubes into the sink. “Yes, Admiral. I’ll report once I’m aboard and underway.”


*******


The Combined Fleet had moved on. It went through Silvershoe, being informed that no Axis ship transited from Connectors. Leaving the light minefield and attending ship in place the fleet moved into Connectors, maintaining dreadnaught cruising speed as it headed for the Forger’s Gate warp point, sending out scouts to ferret out scanner and com buoy chains.

Citadel received much need supplies as well as replacement troops, finally allowing those regiments scheduled to be rotated out to do so. Support ships that were mothballed to reduce overall upkeep were now being tended by repair ships. Once reactivated, they would be sent back down the chain to Hamthen and Hagelkorn to be refitted with the latest technology.

A task group arrived in Kerama Retto to bolster the defense of the anchorage while a supply convoy moved on to Battlement to replenish the Royal Valhallan fleet. A far more extensive sensor net was started in Kerama Retto in case there were more close warp points from which the Axis could mount another raid. In the Chrome and BRB-2 systems the survey ships had completed their surveys twice over, finding no other open warp points. As a precaution a light minefield was placed at the Chrome/BRB-2 warp point along with a ring of sensor buoys on the BRB-2 side. If any closed warp point happened to be in BRB-2 and the Axis moved on to Chrome the Allies will know of it.

As far as one can get from prewar Axis space would be the Inna home system. A Terpla’n diplomatic team had finished what the Tzelans started, concluding a trade and military defense treaty. In three months a Tzelan science outpost will arrive and take residence on the Inna homeworld to provide technological uplift. Among the various provisions was for Inna scientists to accompany Tzelan survey squadrons as they probed the home system’s two other open warp points.

Dunn, the head of the Tzelan scientific team aboard a survey frigate sitting before Inna’s second warp point, was in the lounge and secured to a chair, ready for transit. He looked over to see the four Inna scientists assigned to the ship in their chairs, designed to fit Inna anatomy. The four also wore bulky pressure suits; not that they needed them, but for data collection purposes. As the first ones of their race to experience a warp transit it was felt to be prudent to record how Inna physiology would be affected by said transit. To Dunn’s eyes they appear to be apprehensive as their feet at the end of their tripod legs worked the deck like it was bread dough and their pairs of hands drumming on the armrests.

“It will take but a moment to transit, Mister Kunus,” Dunn said to the lead Inna scientist. “The other two survey ships have already transited and sent back grav-surge data. Our transit will be comparatively smooth in comparison.”

“That is comforting to hear,” said Kunus, his translated words coming from his vox box sounding mechanical and deliberate. Eventually the language AI aboard ship will have built enough of a database to lessen that effect to add inflection and nuance. For now all four scientists had the same computer-provided voice. “How long will the survey take?”

“With three survey ships, at least six weeks to know if there are additional warp points. Considerably less if it’s just a starless nexus or stars without planets. Planetary surveys will take an additional four weeks to determine mineral wealth. Ah,” Dunn said as a chime sounded in the lounge. “Transit in 30 seconds.”

For Dunn it was a routine transit and his innards only felt mildly annoyed. For the Inna it was different. All four looked like they bit into something sour and two of them threw up, reaching for handcloths from their equipment pouches to clean their faces. “Eventually everybody adjusts,” Dunn offered.

“Indeed,” replied Kunus. He turned to a colleague. “Make an entry. Having a meal one hour before warp transit resulted in both participants voiding the contents of their stomachs. The next test will involve having a meal two hours before transit.”

After the cleanup and discussing the recordings of their suits the Inna scientists were ushered to the analysis center. Workstations filled the room except one wall dominated by a large flat screen. “The two other survey ships have been in-system for five days,” Dunn explained. “They have determined that this is a distant binary of red dwarfs. Subsequently, the chances of finding habitable planets here are exceedingly slim.”

Kunus scrutinized the display. “You mentioned earlier that a warp point could be open on one end and be ‘closed’ on the far side. Is this the case here?”

“Yes, Mister Kunus. To preserve the anonymity of the warp point for as long as possible the support ship will remain at the warp point with its drive field down. Additionally,” he motioned to the screen, “a flight of pinnaces is deploying a sensor net on a 240 degree arc centered on our entry point. Warp points in a binary are only found in proximity of one of the stars and located in the aforementioned arc with the ‘blind side’ facing the secondary component. It will be a comprehensive net, and with a sprinkling of communication buoys set to tight-beam transmission we’ll be informed if other ships are detected.”

Kunus’ three eyes blinked with their inner eyelids. “These pinnaces are harder to detect than ships?”

“Very much so, and they have their own set of long range sensors. They will detect ships long before they could see them. However, we will have to assume any alien pinnaces they encounter will be similarly equipped. As for us, we’ll be taking a spiral course away from the warp point, eventually rendezvousing with the other survey ships.”

“Excellent.” Kunus’ vox voice sounded as though it came from a demented sci-fi robot. Dunn took it as a sign that the Inna was expressing excitement. “Now for our individual assignments. We’re all eager to learn the fine points of system surveying.”


********


Back in the Connectors system the Combined Fleet was closing on the warp point leading to the Forger’s Gate system. A drive field was detected by the brace of scouts ahead of the fleet, and eventually it turned into three distinct contacts. A trio of ships was sent out to intercept. The contacts turned out to be Axis escort hulls, most likely Fleet Tracker scouts. The Axis scouts stayed 12 light-seconds ahead of the Terpla’n ships, which comprised a heavy cruiser type not seen before and two Rundenro frigates. After a half hour of passive trailing the cruiser launched nine small craft, all moving at top speed. Thus, after four minutes the scouts made them out to be pinnaces.

For the Axis scouts the options were limited to either going to full speed, match the current speed of the pinnaces, or keep the current speed and allow the pinnaces to close. They chose the third option, reasoning that if the enemy was foolish enough to send pinnaces (likely the armed variety) in the hopes to destroy a scout then they will oblige them. A single pinnace didn’t carry enough stand-off missiles to effectively engage a scout that had datalink point defense. Also the pinnaces have to close the range for their missiles the best chance to lock-on, but permitting the scouts to engage them in turn with improved point defense. Thus, the tactical officers on the scouts worked on their fire control solutions as the pinnaces closed.

As they closed to within 2 light-seconds the scouts confirmed that these were armed pinnaces for they were being acquired by fire control scanners. The scouts planned to open fire at 1.25 light-seconds, mindful to keep the pinnaces in their firing arc. After firing at 1 LS range the small ships were going to match the pinnaces’ speed and keep the range fixed. There was no need to spin up ECM for the Tracker Shield could easily swat down the stand-off missiles. Besides, armed pinnaces don’t have datalink.

How wrong the tactical officers turned out to be. The nine pinnaces were of the new recon variety, designated as Kingfishers in CSF service. In their approach the Kingfishers didn’t prime their point defense mounts for their fire-control systems were different than that used on Whale armed pinnaces, insuring their anonymity before the attack. Moreover the new craft had fighter-grade long range scanners. With that they found the Tracker Shield ironically didn’t have a single shield generator and had two datalink point defense mounts along with an improved mount. Arranged in groups of three, the nine Kingfishers closed the range, taking no losses at the 1.25 LS mark. Just a bit closer brought them into optimal range for their stand-off missiles, and the first group fired before the scouts did.

The tactical officer on the Tracker Shield was surprised to see a trio of pinnaces fire their stand-off missiles in a volley that could only be achieved by datalinked. Nine of the twelve missiles were able to lock-on, far better than expected for these missiles had lasing warheads, plus it helped matters that the ship didn’t have active ECM. Despite the best interception resolution possible six of the nine missiles were able to detonate, lasing the ship’s hull. The armor was broken along with the datalink, cargo hold, and an engine room. Both external racks were destroyed, taking their solitary CAM with it. Of the two other ships one elected to fire at a pinnace but missed, and in turn was soundly trounced by nine missile hits. The other wisely used its improved point defense to engage missiles but only shot down one of the six, losing armor, datalink and a hold.

Coming about, the pinnaces rushed back to their cruiser which had detuned its engines for the rendezvous. The least damaged scout went to full speed, and the Tracker Shield detuned its remaining engines to keep the range from the cruiser. This didn’t prevent the Rundenros from detuning theirs, and the range closed ever so slowly. The heavily damaged scout also detuned its remaining engine more out of reflex and a desperate bid to live that much longer.

The frigates ignored the heavily damaged scout and engaged the Tracker Shield as it came within 4 light-seconds, disengaging detuning and greatly improving the fire control solutions. One hit was scored in the first volley, enough to ensure the loss of another engine room. The second volley half a minute later consisted of two external ADMs along with four internally launched missiles. Both AMDs hit, burning out the remaining engine while a solitary missile destroyed one point defense mount. Taking note of the down drive field the frigates closed, firing a solitary missile in a bid to denude the scout of its point defense. This kept up until the fourth volley, and resulting hit nearly destroyed the ship. One frigate docked to the immobile hulk, the marines easily securing the ship for only the cramped crew quarters were left intact.

The cruiser closed on the other scout, firing its three external ADMs as they came into optimal range. Two hit, rendering the scout immobile and without a drive field. It still had a shield, and like with the frigates the cruiser fired its three external standard missiles one at a time. The first one evaded point defense and hit, doing enough damage so that, like its squadronmate, was left barely intact. A shuttle was sent over and boarded the scout before it could raise its shield. As for the third scout it kept running at full speed towards the warp point, its progress kept tracked by the Combined Fleet’s other scouting assets. A tug was dispatched to pick up both crippled scouts, their fate to be picked over by intelligence officers and engineers for any information.

In time the cruiser and its escorts reached the Forger’s Gate warp point well ahead of the Combined Fleet. The sole Axis scout made transit at the last possible moment; this action seen as a defiant act of bravado on the crew’s part. The cruiser waited six hours before dispatching its first recon pinnace to probe the far side of the warp point. It did not return. By the time the fleet arrived success was reported by the fifth pinnace probe. Waiting in Forger’s Gate was an initial shell of 300 mine patterns kept company by 180 buoys. 114 F1 Hatchets formed the CAP. There were no ships. Six light-seconds from the warp point sat six battleship-sized asteroid forts, two undersized BS2s and one full sized BS2. Admiral Jki considered her options, concluding on sending an initial wave comprised of four Gravity Wells, an Avami and one of the new Bedrock assault carriers. All these ships had the latest technology, and while the Gravity Wells didn’t carry fighters their passive defenses were extremely tough, and they had datalink jammers.

Of the 19 CAP squadrons 12 became active and attacked. As hoped the Gravity Wells were targeted, the Axis defenders believing them to be assault carriers. All the Hatchets carried full loads of antimatter close attack missiles. The Gravity Wells lost all shielding and on average 57% of their armor. Three of the asteroid forts crash-launched their remaining fighters for a total of 162.

As the 72 expended Hatchets raced back to their forts in came the second wave of ships. It was comprised of five Nikazu-V carriers and a Luttfomi minesweeper. The Bedrock transited out, but not before it and the Avami launched 90 F2 Sharks, each carrying an internal gun and three standard close-attack missiles. The engaged the seven remaining Hatchet CAP squadrons, now with datalinks jammed by the Gravity Wells. Despite this setback those Hatchets that managed to engage their weapons focused on the trailing Gravity Well. Combined with the flushed external racks of the active forts (firing capital missiles with lasing warheads), and a portion of the 90 laser buoys fired, it was enough to breach the armor. For that effort, the 42 Hatchets were destroyed. The Commonwealth ships used their point defense on the remaining 90 buoys, shooting down 15. One of the three remaining forts and the standard-sized BS2 launched 72 Hatchets, with the first wave now 4 LS out.

The Gravity Wells transited out with the Avami. Replacing them were six Singularity DNs. The Nikazu-Vs reached their transit vector and launched their 150 Sharks. The 75 remaining buoys fired before more were lost, though spread across 12 ships the damage was diluted. The last two forts launched the last 108 Hatchets. All Hatchets launched from the forts carried full loads of antimatter close-attack missiles, just like the CAP squadrons. Destroying ships was the only priority, so dogfighting was forbidden.

There was no fourth wave yet, for Jki didn’t want transit addled ships to be engaged by whatever number of crash-launched squadrons reached the warp point first. The five Nikazu-Vs transited out, leaving just the Luttfomi and Singularity DNs. All seven ships were facing their transit vector with their point defense enveloped cleared to engage whatever missiles the forts may have remaining. The first fresh Hatchet squadrons didn’t have the time to enter the blind spots of the ships. With all seven ships having active jammers and backed up by 240 Sharks the pilots of the 162 Hatchets nevertheless carried out their task. Already damaged, the Luttfomi succumbed to antimatter pummeling. The remaining forts fired their external missiles, those warheads that got pass point defense lased the side of one Singularity. For their efforts 147 Hatchets were shot down, and the 15 survivors ran back to the forts to rearm.

Despite the odds the following wave of 72 Hatchets engaged, focusing on the Singularity hit before. The tough defenses served the ship well, and along with its five brethren it engaged the fighters with point defense even as the Sharks destroyed this Hatchet wave in its entirety. The damaged ship transited out as the final wave of 108 Hatchets came to meet its fate. Still they managed to inflict significant internal damage on a second DN before joining the previous wave in death. As the second DN transited out it was replaced by three Oknib capital missile DNs. These ships waited until the transit effects wore off before firing on the forts. The point defense offered from a BS2 tasked to cover a pair of forts was lacking, and the forts had no EDMs on their external racks nor any point defense of their own. The Oknibs fired antimatter CMs from their launchers and one-third of their lasing CMs from external racks at one fort, obliterating it along with the two squadrons it was rearming.

Two more forts were destroyed before the last three finished rearming and launched six squadrons, all that remained of the original CAP. As these Hatchets closed on the warp point the Oknibs destroyed the BS2s before resuming the attack on the remaining forts. Again, despite the jamming and being hideously outnumbered the Hatchets pressed their attack, going for an Oknib. Due to the new shields, this ship didn’t sustain armor damage after which the Hatchets were blotted from space. With no point defense the last forts were easily dispatched, and the six Hatchets that remained were rearmed and launched, but this time were downed by antifighter missiles fired by the Oknibs.

As the rest of the fleet made transit mine clearance rounds were fired from their external racks into a selected patch. When it was sufficiently weakened six minesweepers went in and disposed of the remaining patterns, creating a clear lane for passage. Jki dispatched a task group, accompanied by troopships, to reoccupy Forger’s Gate. All that was found in orbit were two CA-sized asteroid forts and a single SD-sized space station. The 18 Hatchet squadrons raced out to engage, their numbers culled by AFHAWKs and Sharks alike. Only a dozen Hatchets reached the leading elements of the task group, the targeted battleship only losing 80% of its shielding. Again the remaining Hatchets were dispatched with alacrity, scarcely a moment past before the troop shuttles were launched and heading for the spaceport and other planetside locations.

Transit into Circuit Run met no resistance. Flights of pinnaces and a network of scouts went about to lay scanner buoys in line for the Bedrock, Laser Burn, and Borehole warp points. A task group was dispatched to the Borehole warp point along with a mining squadron. As for the rest of the fleet it moved towards the Bedrock warp point. On the third day it picked up a drive field belonging to a Hokum ship. It turned out to be a scout corvette, and after exchanging information it was recalled, along with the greyhound group that had patrolled Circuit Run, back to Laser Burn now that the Commonwealth was here in force.

Jki was in the CIC of the battleship Coral Sea, going over fresh dispatches and scouting reports. Her Operations and Intelligence officers were there as well, gleaning salient facts from the electronic bounty like a seagull picking oysters from a cluttered tidepool. Flag Captain Conna spoke first. “Admiral, there’s no need for a Marine detachment to return to the Axis colony on CR-A-01. The Hokum have investigated and found no trace of habitation.”

“Odd,” Jki said. “Why would they evacuate a very mineral rich moon after we were forced out? Was there any indication how long the colony was abandoned?”

“Abandoned my not be the right word, Admiral. That implies haste. Hokum investigators found the colony was locked down and sealed in a manner that suggested long-term preservation. The fusion power plants were deactivated, the only power coming from farms of solar arrays and batteries. Only a bare minimum of electrical power is used to keep critical systems warm and to prevent icing in the water storage silos. As for the colonists I suspect they may have been reassigned to Bedrock right after Circuit Run was recovered due to a need for additional technical crews for construction projects.”

Jki blinked. “Well, that’s one less rear-area headache we have to deal with. All the same still dispatch a pinnace to that colony. If the colony was prepped for long-term preservation, then it stands to reason that their computer records were treated the same way.”

“Aye, Admiral. There’s bound to be something the Hokum investigation overlooked.”

Lanaq, Jki’s Intelligence Officer, spoke next. “Admiral, Task Force 12 has reclaimed the Brass Latch system with moderate losses to their assault element. Given the composition of defenses encountered, a thick minefield backed by numerous laser buoys and more of those fighter-heavy type 4 bases, it’s likely those in Tinsmith will be the same if not more.”

“That didn’t take long. That assault element was in Citadel barely five days.” Jki’s eyes went back to her monitor. “With the scheduled reinforcement TF 12 will continue to advance. Our covering force at the Circuit Run/Borehole warp point will compel the Borehole defenders into a fish-or-cut-bait mentality.”

“I’ll have to agree, Admiral,” Lanaq said. “The lack of effort on the Axis’ part to reclaim Citadel when the opportunity presented itself likely means the forces at Borehole are primed for defense.”

Jki brought up a representation of the Bedrock system on her monitor. “Speaking of defense, how soon will we be able to probe the Bedrock warp point?”

Conna briefly glanced at a monitor next to him. “Eighteen hours, Admiral. All available recon pinnaces are tasked deploying comm and scanner buoys. We’re using a Privateer pinnace tender with its loadout of Whales equipped with scanner packs on their external racks.”

“Hopefully probing losses will be minimal, Conna. We’ll need as many Whales as possible when we break into Bedrock for a comprehensive scanner shell around the fleet.” Jki made a wry smile as she read another dispatch. “The Valhallans are sending major reinforcement for their fleet at Battlement. Queen Quasso is coming as well to take command of the Royal Fleet. With tugs assisting their capital units they will arrive in Battlement in five months.”

“That is good news, Admiral,” said Lanaq. “The morale of the Valhallan fleet in the Battlement system will increase now that the daughter of the departed King Russen will take his place.”

Jki looked at the master plot in the CIC, eyes fixed on the Bedrock warp point icon and a familiar pain returning to her gut. “Have the rest of the staff convene for a preliminary assault plan here in the CIC in one hour. I intend to enter Bedrock at the earliest possible moment. Our people there as well as in Bulwark and Brickyard expect no less.”


*******


The Tzelan survey squadron continued in a methodical manner as it slowly spiraled away from the entry warp point. As for the system, now labeled A-1 by the accompanying Inna scientists, it was slowly revealing its secrets. A gas giant was detected orbiting the primary star, and plans were underway to send a pinnace towards it to ferret out and inspect any moons it may have. Aboard Dunn’s ship the daily review of collected data was underway.

“Pity it will be some time before we can place a mining outpost here,” said Kunus, the lead Inna scientist aboard. “We’ve established our first permanent outpost on our homeworld’s moon only ten years ago.”

“By treaty this system belongs to your race, Kunus,” said Dunn as he brought up an image of the gas giant on the main display. “Unless an unknown race has claimed it first. Establishing an outpost under such circumstances might ignite a war.”

Kunus’ three eyes looked inquisitive. “Speaking of war, what are the chances that this system is part of the Axis?”

Dunn noted the computer-translated voice for Kunus has improved to the point to include inflection and emphasis of certain words. However, it still had the mannerisms of early text-to-voice speech such as rushing words and robotic tonalities. “Hard to say. Warp point connections between systems care little for the actual physical distances involved. It also depends how large the Axis actually is in terms of systems they control.”

“Hence the sensor buoy network your pinnaces are involved in,” the Inna said. “The gas giant is on our side of the primary, and the pinnace flight won’t take that long. I’m assuming we’re waiting until the sensor network is more comprehensive?”

“Yes, Kunus. It will be a matter of days now. Have you selected which among your team will be going?”

The Inna nodded. “All four of us are equally qualified and have the same level of seniority in our respective institutions. Therefore, the matter will be settled in the most equitable manner possible. We’ll use rock, paper, scissors.”

Dunn looked perplexed. “Intriguing. Is that a creative art competition?”

Before Kunus could reply a notification chirp brought both his and Dunn’s attention to the master plot. A flashing dot appeared and beside it a scrawl of text Kunus couldn’t make out. After a few moments Dunn spoke. “An alien drive field has been detected. That it appeared within the detection range of one of our scanner buoys means that it was either there to begin with and started its drive or that it emerged from a warp point. Thankfully the closest pinnace to the contact is outside long range scanner detection range.”

“What will happen now, Dunn?”

“Our ships and pinnaces will withdraw, Mister Kunus. A scout will remain at our entry point to send daily courier drone reports on the status of the alien contact. We should be getting a definite read on the drive frequencies in an hour.”

“This occurrence will invoke the defense pact?” Kunus’ voice was tinged with concern.

“Yes it will,” replied Dunn. “The 3rd Field Fleet will secure the Inna side of the warp point as a precaution. If it turns out to be an alien race, then it becomes a first contact situation. If it’s the Axis, then I’m afraid your homeworld will be on the frontlines.”
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