Episode 17

“Foxtrot 1-1 to all flights, you have all impressed me in the training flights, but now we go into the real thing. I know some of you have seen combat before and dealt with the bitterness and emptiness of death and destruction. There is no glory in the work we are setting out to do, but it must be done, billions of lives hang in the balance. The freedom of your worlds, your homes, your families will either be lost or secured by our actions here. This my friends is a cause worth fighting for, this is a cause worth dying for. We will try until the very last possible moment to resolve this without bloodshed, without the carnage and devastation, but if we must attend to the grim and cruel work of a warrior then so be it, because it is like a great revolutionary from the ancient days of Earth once said ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’. All flights, execute orders now.” Fisher smiled as she closed the communication channel. She didn’t expect to give a speech, but as the words appearing on the secure text based ship to ship communication panel indicated, it was well received.

Fisher’s own flight plan was to link up with the Helios and dock and meet with O’Brian, Franklin, and Malachi. They need to get everyone coordinating. The Admiral felt that Fisher was the best one to carry this out and flying a heavily armed Hornet fighter would allow her to help with combat operations. The M50 flight remained with the fleet to act as point defense, the Avengers moved to a forward escort position, and the 325’s went ahead as an advance screen. The two gladiators were to link up with the Helios to give some standoff torpedo capabilities to the Helios strike force. The Admiral was working on establishing narrowband cross system communications with the Imperial fleet also advancing on Elysium III hoping to convince them that the Outer Worlds fleet was not hostile.

***Meanwhile on the UEES Artemis’s emergency bridge***

“Sir, the Centurion is reporting a large number of contacts from the Halcyon jump point heading in our direction! They also report that multiple contacts have emerged from the asteroid belt. No response from the recon flight, we believe they are destroyed. Our reinforcement fleet took a long time to get organized, but they are now en-route, we expect them to arrive at roughly the same time as both groups of contacts. Things are going to get really crowded above Elysium III”. The communications officer’s nervous excitement was not well hidden. He was afraid of what was coming, but he wanted to see a battle so that those who killed many of his friends in what he believed to be an act of terrorism could find their just and swift ends in a searing hot laser blast.

“So, the battle will soon be joined. We have much work to attend to. We still have a good number of fighters and a few bombers that are operation. Have the bombers and two flights of escorts fly at max thrust towards the largest body of incoming and launch a full salvo of torpedoes at the largest contact. It will probably be their command ship, if we can gut them of their leadership early it might just disorient them enough to give us an advantage. I have a special broadcast that I plan on making soon, standby for a directional broadcast from my quarters.” Shaw, rubbed his palms together and smiled. This upcoming fight will make for some great propaganda and since only those who are about to die will see his own moving of sacrificial pawns, he had little to worry about. Yes, his plans will come together and the Empire will all but beg for him to be given high rank and eradicate the rebellion and give him free will to execute his other plans. It was once said to never let a good crisis go to waste, and in this case Shaw was creating a crisis just for that purpose. He smiled inwardly, full of pride and arrogance as he walked from the emergency bridge to his quarters.

In the vast openness of space, combat pilots started to receive their orders and the Artemis’s attack force broke off on an intercept course for the fleet headed by the OWAS Vanguard. Their first contact will be in about two hours. Just before they make contact Shaw planned on broadcasting his message to the attacking fleets. Simultaneously he would broadcast a completely different message to the Imperial fleet, disguised as a system-wide broadcast. He was going to ensure that the two fleets had completely different sets of perspectives on the current situation. He reflected back on the teachings of Sun-Tzu in the Naval Academy. A commander who wins will secure his victory before he even enters battle. And how much easier is it to secure victory when you set others forward to die in battle against each other leaving you mere scattered resistance to clean up. As Shaw reached his quarter’s door, he paused, smiled and nodded approvingly to the thoughts spinning in his head.

The End

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