The Stronghold

A story about the last stand and fall of a Seaportian planet.

Introductory

In the year 2079, Earth was nearly destroyed. Engulfed in the raging nuclear inferno of world war three, the inhabitants of the blue world slaughtered each other for ten long years before all of the major powers finally expended both their fury and their arsenals. And there forth, out of the raining nuclear ash of the last war among mankind, a victor did emerge. One of the most unlikely of winners rose victorious over all the nations of earth. The small country of Seaport. The countries victory was not incredibly surprising though, for it held an incredible advantage over its many opponents. Technology, Seaport was the most technologically advanced country on earth and for good reason. Thousands of years ago, while the first humans were isolating themselves in small tribes and fighting each other, the people living on the island of what would be Seaport decided that together they could accomplish much greater things.

So as it was, Seaport advanced faster because they organized earlier. This large early start in the race of survival also helped them militarily. While the other countries fired nuclear missiles at one another, Seaport returned fire with pinpoint precise weapons which destroyed only life but not buildings, and used no form of dangerous radiation. When fired upon, they destroyed missiles with an energy pulse which both destroyed the missile itself, and disabled the radioactive warhead encased within.

So with excellent utilization of these advantages, Seaport was the victor. The other nations, all of their great powers and strengths depleted in the all-destroying battle, yielded to the winning nation. However, instead of taking full ruler ship of the countries, the Seaportian leadership did the completely unexpected. They dissolved them. They completely dissolved the nations of earth, and simply unified them under the single name of Seaport. By now, all the surviving citizens of the damaged planet were thoroughly sick of the constant fighting and the persistent threat of nuclear warhead dropping on their head, and henceforth they welcomed the global unification. Under the title of the Seaportian Confederation, the now-united people of earth started working on the next problem, the problem of over population. With over sixteen billion now populating the planet, its resources were in danger of being overused completely. With the added danger that the planet had been so horribly mangled by the vast radioactive explosions so the people of earth looked to the stars, to colonize the other planets of the vast expanses of space. Already there were space colonies on the moon and mars, but problems like distance, resources, and threats such as micro meteoroids made travel rare. So now, with all the great minds and technological assets working together, they tackled the problem.

Blueprints were quickly put to use, as technology started leapfrogging ahead. Anti-gravity generators, stasis fields, energy based weaponry, light-bending cloaking devices. But the biggest invention came in the year 2147, when scientists Mark Lawrence and John Fisher created an advanced sub-light engine capable of half the speed of light. . Around the same time, energy deflector shields were created eliminating the threat micro-meteoroids posed to colony vessels. This protection, along with the new engines, allowed the populating of other, much more distant celestial bodies such as the Jovian moons (Moons of Saturn and Jupiter) and Ceres, and other large bodies in the asteroid and Trojan belts. Then, in the year 2243, the Translight Mass Accelerator and Line Attachment System (TMALS) was created, allowing vessels to plow through an alternate dimension known as JumpSpace, to reach destinations thousands of times faster than previously had been possible. But, the expansive universe was not empty. It was populated by an unknown number of sentient and advanced species, some hostile, some peaceful. Though there were not many races discovered at this point, the realization of hostile races resulted in a large navy being built by Seaport. The Earth Space Control (ESC) was formed to handle all galactic military matters. By the year 2631, The Seaportian Confederation, protected by the ESC, was one of the strongest military forces known to the galaxy, and by the year 2640, it was challenged. Attacked by a supremacist race of aliens called the Thral League, the Confederation soon found itself battling for existence.

Prologue

Esoteria was a Seaportian stronghold world. With two hundred Shooting-Star class planetary defence stations orbiting the planet and a full time fleet of three hundred ships-of-the line, it was an impregnable fortress or, more appropriately, an impregnable stronghold. Huge generators on the planet’s surface created massive overlapping energy shields around it which could absorb the impact of an asteroid two hundred miles in diameter. Armies of marines and soldiers covered the ground as well as vast shipyards, spaceports, barracks, military fortresses and armouries. Fleets of single ships patrolled the planetary system, all checking for signs of the imminent attack.

Ever since the Seaportian Confederation had entered into a state of war with the Thral League ten years ago they had lost huge tracts of space to the relentless aliens. There had been several victories, but they had been too few to turn the tide of the war. While the humans could hold their positions and fight back effectively on the ground, the space fleets could not. The advanced weapons of the League would quickly destroy the defending Seaportian fleets, overloading their shields and burning through their hulls. Following which the League forces would then evacuate any soldiers from the planet. After this they would simply use their phenton weapons to set the atmosphere on fire and burn the planet to slag and glass. This process continued with grim consistency. The consequences had been enormous. With over ten billion civilians dead and thousands of warships destroyed, the economy was struggling and on many planets food was scarce because so many farming and HARVEST worlds had been destroyed.

Of this sector of space, all of it was under League control with the exception of Esoteria. And with reports of league reinforcements arriving in the neighbouring system, which might change quite soon. CENTCOMM had decided that it was a waste of soldiers to send reinforcements to a doomed planet, no matter its classification. They had given orders for the fleet there to hold out as long as possible, and then to evacuate. They also had orders to leave nothing of value to the enemy, so ground forces were setting massive charges to the planets core to effectively destroy it. Valuable equipment was also being packed up and FTL drives were being fitted to the planetary defence stations so they could also escape the coming destruction. Already about half of the soldiers on the ground had been evacuated to safer places or hot combat zones were they were needed. The fleet ships were on heavy patrols, in and out of the system and keeping track of the Leagues progress. Estimates said that they would require a fleet of five hundred to attack this planet, and they currently had three hundred and fifty nine according to the last corvette’s report. So there was another two weeks at their current rate until they reached the amount of ships necessary to attack. The admiral figured they would evacuate fully within one and one half weeks. A bit close for comfort. And as they found out, it was a little too close.

Chapter One

 Lieutenant Avery Lewis Parker rolled in his bunk. His mind lazily drifted through different dream scenarios, all of which were impossible. In three of them he single-handedly destroyed the League, and in another one he was eaten by a dragon. In this one, he was being chased by a horde of Thrals through a long hallway. As he ran out of the hall he fell onto a cloud. Falling on his back, he looked up to see the Thrals aim their luent rifles at him. He tried to get up and run but they fired first. But instead of the usual high pitched thudding sound, he heard loud, sharp continuous shrieking sound. He covered his ears, trying to block it out to no avail. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to get rid of the blaring noise. Louder, and louder it got, never ending.

He opened his eyes. He heard the sound more clearly than ever now. He looked for the Thral, only to see a wooden surface above him.

What the... He wondered. Where were the Thrals? And where was that sound coming from? Then reality slowly dawned on him. He raised his hands to his eyes and started to rub the sleep out of them. Sitting erect, he yawned, stretched and cracked his knuckles. Scratching his back, he re-orientated himself with where he was. He was in his bunk, in Barracks complex nine on STRONGHOLD class planet Esoteria. The aggravating sound was his personal alarm set to wake him up at 0530 hours. He stretched again and shut off his alarm. Stretching his legs a little, he stood up in the small enclosed space of his bunk. He flung his legs over the side, stretched his arms and turned on the small sink in his bunk. A sheet of cold water spat out and hammered mercilessly into the stainless steel sink. He cupped his hands together and put them forward. Catching some of the cold water in his hands, he bent over and splashed it on his face. The shock brought him to his sense in a jolt. He switched off the sink and turned his attention to the small dispenser by his bed. He activated it, and pulled a small microphone close to his face.

“Espresso coffee, hot, black.” He had forced himself to live with the strong coffee due to academic studies which lasted all night long. The weaker stuff the non-coms drank tasted frankly like someone washed a dead cat in it. A small cardboard cup appeared in front of him and the black steaming liquid filled it. Its delicious aroma hit him immediately and he grabbed it and lifted it to his lips. Blowing some heat off the top, he tipped it and let a small amount spill into his mouth and scorch its way down his throat. He smiled appreciatively and put a lid on the rest of it. He put his drink down and grabbed his clothing off a rack. Tan clothing, standard dress uniform with the pointed officers cap to top it all off. He finished buttoning up his jacket, picked up the coffee with his left hand and popped open the door to his bunk. Then, as an afterthought, he reached back in to his weapons locker. He grabbed a holster and clipped it to his belt. Taking a neutron handheld fresh from the armoury, he was one of the few officers to carry one. Sliding it into the holster, he clipped a buckle over it. Now he went to the open door and crawled out, taking his coffee with him. Coffee in left hand, he started descending from the third floor of bunks. The other marines in his platoon were all asleep for now, so no one else was using the ladder. He climbed down past two bunks, each with a sleeping marine private inside. He reached the bottom and hopped off, careful to not spill his coffee.

He took another sip of the burning coffee, winced at the heat, smiled at the taste and headed over towards the exercise arena. He arrived at the entrance, typed in a password, and the door clicked open. A pleasant, feminine voice announced his arrival.

“Welcome Lieutenant Parker.” He answered.

“Morning, Leslie. Say, think you could unlock the equipment?”

“Yes lieutenant. All the equipment is now unlocked. Enjoy yourself.”

“Thanks Leslie.” He answered to the base AI (Artificial Intelligence). He headed over to the exercise equipment, but instead of mounting one he walked past it, got a blue workout mat and laid it flat on the ground. Then he dropped onto his hands and started to do push ups rapid fire fast. He counted to fifty, then did twenty one handed ones on his right hand and twenty on his left. Having finished this he moved on to one hundred jumping jacks, thirty squats and thirty deep knee bends. He checked out the clock. 0539 hours, another fifteen minutes and he should wrap it up. He got on the treadmill, turned up the speed and elevation to the equivalent of running up a steep hill at ten miles an hour. His legs started moving and his heart started pumping blood through the system.

He ran hard for awhile and then he checked the clock. 0555, time to shut it down. He turned off the treadmill, put away the mat and checked himself out.

“Goodbye, Lieutenant Parker.” The AI announced.

“Later, Leslie.” He replied. He jogged over to the showers, did a quick minute rinse, changed back into his uniform and jogged over to the cafeteria. He finished off his cooling coffee, ate a quick breakfast of greasy eggs, crisp bacon and a small bowl of oatmeal. All in four minutes. After this he jogged over to the parade ground where most of his platoon was lined up at attention. He walked up in front of them, and patiently waited for a few stragglers. He didn’t have to wait long. Within another minute the late soldiers had scrambled out to the parade ground and snapped to attention. With them all there and ready, he began his morning tirade.

“Good morning ladies. Did you sleep well?” The marines knew better than to say no, so they replied the only way they could.

“Yes sir!”

“Good, because you’ll need every last drop of energy in those miserable hides of yours! I and Staff sergeant Mackenzie have worked out a great schedule for you lot today, starting with a ten mile run. How’s that sound to you rabble?” The poor marines replied solemnly.

“Great sir.” Grinning inwardly, Parker pressed on.

“Great? You don’t sound very grateful now do you? How’s this, fifteen miles! No stops, with twenty kilo packs on! Now let’s hear it?” He enjoyed the look on their face go from dread to despair. They replied with enthusiasm.

“Great, thank you sir!”

“Glad to hear it, now get moving! You’ll find the kilo sacks in the armoury next to the carbines. Staff sergeant, help them out will you?” Mackenzie’s gruff voice replied in earnest.

“Yes sir! Come on ladies, let’s move your hynies!” As they last of the beleaguered troops left Parker chuckled quietly. Ah, how sweet command was! He remembered the days when he was wet behind the ears pup, a private on Earth. He joined the Earth Space Control Marine Corps when he was nineteen to escape a life of politics, like his father would have forced him into. He’d figured he’d cruise the universe, fighting aliens. What a crock that was! For three years he’d done nothing but hang around on some moon. Dull as dirt that was, his first action came when he was twenty four, during the Jovian moons uprising. After that he was shipped around on a cruiser for the better part of two years. He was a master sergeant by then, promoted for his duty during the Jovian uprising. He got his bar and promotion to lieutenant when he led a platoon of marines against an insurrectionist base after his own LT was KIA. After that he was sent to a training facility for the years until the League wars. After that he was in active duty for ten years until a few months ago. He was sent here to train some more soldiers, and here he was. In charge of a platoon during an evacuation prior to a massive alien assault. After the marines started their horrid run, he headed to his office to check any messages and the planets status report.

He arrived at the door to his office, pressed his hand against a scanner, and spoke into a microphone.

“Lieutenant Parker.” A flat female voice replied.

“Welcome Lieutenant Parker.” A small ding sounded as the computer authorized his entry, and the door hissed open. He walked in and it hissed shut, sealing him from the outside world. The office was nice little place. With it being a roomy 20x20, it gave him some space. In the centre of the room was a desk that was nearly bare. It had some pictures of earth and a few other planets on it and a book or two. On the wall he had mounted a few of his favourite weapons, an ailon beam rifle, a mk. 3 plasma boarding carbine, and a mk. Nine energy sword. He walked over to the desk, pulled up a wheeled chair and sat down. He pressed his finger against a small scanner for identification and it beeped to confirm it was him. Now that his system was unlocked and ready for use, he tapped a small blue icon in front of him. Immediately a humming filled the room as the main computer powered on and holographic screen two feet by two feet formed in front of him. The logo for the Earth Space Control, a black background of stars with earth in the middle clutched by an eagle, appeared on screen and a small box appeared requesting a password. He quickly typed in parkerestate and touched the enter icon. The screen faded from view for a moment and was replaced by a luminous turquoise screen displaying several different options. He tapped the small envelope and opened up his emails. They loaded, requested another password which he entered, and he was in. He touched the ‘receive’ option and a flood of messages poured in. Most of it was junk, how even with today’s technology spam email still existed was beyond him, so he set to work deleting most of his messages. A couple he saved, mainly messages from friends and loved ones. He was looking for one in particular, he scrolled down, tying to find it, there! It was entitled as Officers memo: League threat magnitude. He tapped it once to open it. Again, it requested a password. He cursed silently. These CNI spooks were getting more paranoid everyday! He typed in another password before it let him through. It was a pretty simple straight forward message. It read as following.

To: All Seaportian ESC officers stationed on Esoteria.

From: Esoterian CENTCOMM

Subject: Magnitude of League fleet in Bevory system

/start file/

To all officers, you are receiving this memo because you have the right to know the size of the threat we are currently facing. Our latest reconnaissance in the Bevory system conducted by the Corvette ESCS Mills shows that League ships-of the line number at three hundred and seventy eight out of the estimated five hundred required to attack Esoteria. The evacuation is currently under way as you know and is going well. At the current rate we will be ready to send all our vessels to JumpSpace by the end of eight days. Until then you will continue doing your duty to the fullest. No more and no less is expected of you. Good work gentlemen.

 Admiral Stilforth  

/end file/ 

Parker finished the memo and deleted it, protocol to deny access to unauthorized personal. He checked the clock, 0630 hours. He figured the platoon would be finished their morning run at 0900 hours. He figured normally it would take five hours at least for sixty men to do it normally, but ESC marines had been given biochemical injections to increase their strength, speed and stamina so they could perform twice as well as the standard soldier. And with Mackenzie driving them they would have to push themselves to their very core to keep up with his demands. In the corps, the LT gave the orders and the sergeants stretched and added to it. If Parker ordered fifty pushups and twenty knee bends, Mackenzie would have them do one hundred pushups and fifty knee bends with rock packs on their backs followed by a two kilo run to top it all off. And for the Hornet shock troopers? This was heaven compared to what they had to endure. Parker had served a sting with them for two months, to see what it was like. He’d planned to serve for two years, but two months was all his body could take, even with the better body enhancements the Hornets got. So he was content to stick with the normal Marine Corps for now.

He scanned through his emails for anything else important, found none, and shut the computer down. Wondering what to do, he decided to take a quick nap. Nothing else to do, so he would sleep until the soldiers got back. He walked over to his personal cyro-tube, a small machine which used cryogenic technology to suspend his body functions. He climbed inside, shut the hatch and set the timer for two and a half hours and started it up. Immediately cold wisps of vapour started to crawl over him. He took a deep breath, akin to breathing in cold thick fog and let it settle on his lungs and throat. Drowsiness kicked in suddenly and he let his eyes fall asleep. He took in one last breath, and then lost himself to the inky blackness of sleep.

He awoke slowly, drifting in and out of consciousness. He could see the thick fog in front of him slowly dispersing, like mist before the sun. He opened his eyes fully and could see vague shapes outside of the tank. He remembered where and who he was and he snapped awake. As the last of the mist cleared he reached up and tapped an icon on the upper left side of the cyro-tube. The hatch popped open and the last few wisps of mist evaporated in the room’s heat. He shook his head to clear the effects of the cyro-sleep and took a deep breath of room air. His lungs ached a little as they warmed up after their two and a half hour freeze. He coughed three times to help clear up his throat and lungs and then headed out to greet the troops who’d be back shortly.  He straightened his uniform, put his cap back on and walked out of the office.

He headed to the parade ground and turned on his communication chip on to Mackenzie’s channel.

“Mack, you read me?” Mackenzie’s gruff voice replied in earnest.

“Sure do sir, what you want?”

“Status report, how are the troops doing and when will you be back?”

“They’re gasping like fish; we’re just about at the door actually. Mind if you could open it for us sir?”

“No problem Mack, hang tight. Over and out.” He turned off his c-chip and head over to the controls to open the main doors. He reached the console, typed in yet another password and touched the icon to open the door. With an initial creak and a groan, the big doors slid open just in time to allow sixty gasping panting marines in, running full speed. Mackenzie led them, breathing just a little more than usual. As they entered onto the artificial grass of the parade ground, Mackenzie yelled out.

“Platoon halt!” They all stopped and the rookie of the platoon, Private Colcheck fell on his back, dumping the heavy backpack of weights and gasped heavily. Mackenzie was immediately on him.

“Did I give you the order to rest boot? I don’t think so, so get the pack back on and give me twenty! Double time!” Colcheck looked pleadingly at the rock hard face of Mackenzie for mercy. He found none. With a moan, he got up, slung the backpack on and hit the deck and started doing pushups. Parker watched without remorse. They had to learn after all. He said.

“Attention!” Immediately all of them snapped to attention with the exception of Colcheck. Mackenzie grabbed him and yanked him to his feet. He growled at him.

“When the lieutenant says attention, you do it! Two laps with rock pack on afterwards for insubordination!” Colcheck moaned quietly, and stood at attention the best his weary frame could. Parker smiled inwardly at the poor recruit. He remembered when he was fresh in boot and was yelled at for not going to attention either when he was in the bathroom. He pushed the thought from his mind and asked Mackenzie.

“Staff sergeant! How did these men perform?”

“Well sir, despite the facts they can’t run well, drink right, hold their lunch down or do what they’re told.” He glared at Colcheck with that last statement. “They did fine for a bunch of overworked lunch ladies.”

“Good to hear Staff Sergeant. You may now herd them all over to the range for some shooting. Oh, and they can leave their packs behind. ‘Cept for the green horn here.” He said motioning to Colcheck. He saluted and Mackenzie did likewise. He wheeled around and addressed the assembled.

“Alright you lot, put those packs away and run over to the range. And I do mean run Kowalski! Go, go, go! Colcheck, you stay behind and finish those pushups and start the laps, then join us at the range.” Colcheck complained, a big mistake for a boot.

“But sir, I don’t know what number I was at.” Mackenzie grinned wickedly.

“Then start over at thirty.” Colcheck talked back, bigger mistake.

“It was twenty sir.”

“No, it was forty. Start at forty.”

“Sir, it was twenty.”

“I’m quite sure it was fifty private.” Said Mackenzie, obviously enjoying himself.” Colcheck was about to open his mouth again when he realized what was going on. He saluted and said.

“Yes sir, fifty. You’re never ever wrong sir.” Mackenzie growled.

“Make it sixty for sucking up!” With that, he turned around and left. Colcheck sighed in despair, hit the deck and started to dole out the pushups. Parker chuckled quietly and turned to follow the troops.

He laughed a bit more at the rookie’s folly. Mackenzie was delighted when Colcheck had arrived a week and a half ago fresh out of boot camp. By now all the other soldiers in his platoon had long ago learned Mackenzie’s tricks and he rarely got to have any fun with them. Now Colcheck would have to learn it all the hard way, figuring out all of the sergeant’s tricks, and by how slow he was it could take a very, very long time for that to happen.

Pushing away the thoughts of the rookie, Parker arrived at the entrance to the range. He typed in a quick code, scanned his hand and retina and the door hissed open. His ears and nose were both greeted by the sound and smell of energy weapons discharging. He heard the hums, thuds and sizzles as energy beams and bolts boiled through the air at slammed into holographic targets which flashed and disappeared. The marines were all busy shooting at the holographic Thrals with an assortment of weaponry most commonly used by the corps. He recognized the chatter of pulser assault rifles. Pulsers were the AK-47 of the modern day, cheap, easy to maintain and durable. However they were getting to be outdated by now, having been in active service for over one hundred years. It rapid fire laser pulses rapidly depleted shields, but it was hard to pierce the body armour used by Thrals, so this weapon was only ever used because of its rapid rate of fire. This weapon was nowadays usually bypassed in favour of the ailon beam rifle or the more popular plasma carbine. A few of the troops were using the sniper rifles for some long rang targets at over hundred meters, and two of them were shooting the heavy weapons at simulated tanks and other vehicles.

Parker walked over to the armoury and scanned the multitude of firepower resting so quaintly on the magnetic walls of the armoury. Running his fingers down the selection of weapons, he selected the mark nine plasma boarding carbine. Picking it off the wall, he walked casually over to grab a battery for the gun. Picking one up, he slid it in and locked it with a satisfying lick. Grabbing a helmet in exchange for his officer’s cap he slid it on and activated it. A targeting reticule appeared in the bottom left hand corner of his view. Holding the gun in his right hand, he strolled over to the targeting range and selected a clear firing pit and slid into it and laid down. He raised the gun upwards and towards the target and the targeting reticule on his helmet went upwards as well, following his aim and sighting whatever the barrel pointed at. He looked for a target and selected a Thral fifty meters away. Sighting the reticule on it, he flicked off the safety and exhaled. As his breath expended, he squeezed the trigger. A carbine buckled as a bolt of highly explosive compressed gas exited the muzzle and blazed towards the target. It hit the hologram and the hologram in the lower chest. It vanished immediately in a flash of static. He turned the rifle towards another target and squeezed the trigger again. Three more bolts followed in rapid succession, one missed and turned a patch of mud to a blast of steam.

He fired until the battery was depleted. He stood up and unclipped the battery. He pulled it out and tossed it into a disposal until and took the weapon back to the armoury wall. He set it back on the wall and it stuck there due to the magnetic plates. Running his fingers along the arsenal, he moved away and pulled his neutron handheld from his holster. Grabbing two extra power cells, he walked back over to the range. He flicked the safety off the firearm and allowed it a second to power up, then pointed it at a target twenty meters away. He closed one guy, aimed and squeezed. The pistol bucked up as the super compressed energy bolt seared down the range and hit a armoured Thral figure, shields and all. The bolt hit the shields, and exploded. The shield died immediately, providing no defence for the second bolt which hit home moments later. The round blasted right through the armour, and also exploded. The Thral figure vaporized from the inside out. Parker smiled, and holstered the weapon. He could practise his aim later, there were other things to do for now.

 

 

The End

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