Fire from Ashes – snippet 2

Fire from Ashes

(You can find the first snippet here. The following snippet does not immediately follow the first. Just fair warning because I’m evil. VBG)

J. W. Campbell, flagship

Taskforce Liberator

Tenasic System

 

“Report!”

Rear Admiral Kieran O’Malley clung to the arms of his command chair as the Campbellrocked under another round of enemy fire. This time, however, he had the satisfaction of knowing the ships under his command were no longer at a disadvantage. Somehow – and, at the moment, he didn’t care how – the Marines on the surface had finally managed to break through. They might not have taken command of the defense platform controls yet but the distraction they created worked in the taskforce’s favor. At least he hoped so. If not. . . .

He wouldn’t think about that.

“Admiral, message coming in from Lt. Colonel Ortega.”

Relief he didn’t dare show filled O’Malley as he turned to the comms officer. The young lieutenant had held up well during the battle, as had all the bridge crew. If they made it through this – and, by God, he’d do everything possible to make sure they did –he planned to make sure each of them received commendations. They had done themselves, the Navy and Fuercon proud.

“Put it on my screen.”

He glanced at the screen and waited as it changed from the ship’s insignia to Ortega’s image. The woman’s armor looked as if she’d been caught, and buried, under a ton of debris. He saw where enemy first had hit and, hopefully, been deflected. Exhaustion lined her face and left her eyes looking bruised. A cut along the left side of her jaw had bled freely before someone had treated it. He needed only to look at her, and the other Marines he could see in the pick-up, looked, to know it had not been an easy fight.

“Sir, we now hold the groundside defenses. We should have control of the orbital defense platforms shortly. Your orders?”

“Continue according to plan, Sorceress. Bring the platforms down. If your Marines can reprogram them to work for us, do so.” He paused, listening as a report came in from one of the other ships in the taskforce. “Sooner is better than later.”

Otherwise, he would lose even more ships.

“Understood, Sir.”

“Then get to it, Sorceress. Keep me informed. Campbellout.”

O’Malley allowed himself a quick sigh of relief. It wasn’t much, not in the grand scheme of things, but it was something. It was also more than they had a few minutes earlier. Now he needed to do what he could to keep the enemy focused on his ships and not on the Marines dirtside.

“Comms, set up a link to ships’ commanders,” he said as he studied the holo plot in the center of the bridge.

The relief from a moment before dissipated when he did. The lights indicating the taskforce told a story no commanding officer ever wanted to hear. The enemy outnumbered them and had been slowly whittling away at their LACs and leading edges. If Ortega and her Marines didn’t get the defense platforms down soon, the battle would be lost.

And he was damned if he’d not do everything possible to keep that from happening.

“Comms?”

“Ready for you, Admiral.”

He nodded and leaned back. The forefinger of his right hand hovered over the button on the arm of his chair that would activate his pickup. He gave himself a moment to collect his thoughts. Then he pressed the button, watching as each commander’s face appeared on his screen.

“New orders. On my command, initiate Attack Plan Barca. I repeat, on my command, initiate Attack Plan Barca.”

He leaned back, his attention focused on the plot before him. One by one, each ship in the taskforce confirmed receipt of his orders. He waited, doing his best not to think about the men and women who would lose their lives if he made the wrong call. So much depended on the Warlords.

“Incoming message from Captain Osterhaus, sir,” Comms reported.

O’Malley drew a deep breath and schooled his expression not to show his frustration. “Put it on my screen.”

“Begging the Admiral’s pardon, but I have to protest these orders,” Osterhaus began without preamble.

O’Malley leaned back. This time, he didn’t bother to hide his flash of irriation. From the beginning of this mission, Osterhaus had been a thorn in his side. At least he’d been warned. Both Miranda Tremayne and Richard Collins told him Osterhaus would question every order, especially if he felt it might put his ship at the forefront of the fighting. While the man wasn’t exactly a coward, he wasn’t one to risk himself if he could find a way around it.

“Captain Osterhaus, you have your orders and you will carry them out or I will relieve you of your command.” He leaned forward, wondering if Osterhaus understood how lucky he was to be on another ship at the moment.

“Sir, the defense platforms will tear us to shreds!”

“The defense platforms will no longer be an issue, Captain. They have been dealt with.” As if his statement had been the cue, the platforms opened fire on the enemy ships within range. “Comms, give the order. Attack Plan Barca now!” He turned his attention back to Osterhaus. “Captain, if you fail to carry out my orders, there will be hell to pay and none of your family connections will be able to save you.” With that, he ended the comm and turned his attention back to the plot, praying as he did that he wasn’t sending his people to their deaths.

“Comms, signal Sorceress with my thanks and tell her we have activated Attack Plan Barca.”

With luck, the tide of battle had turned and they might actually live to talk about it one day. At least he hoped so.

(Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors will be corrected before publication. There may also be other changes to the text.)

Fire from Ashes is now available for pre-order.

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