Good morning! Welcome to Snippet Saturday. If you are joining the blog for the first time or if you haven’t figured out what’s going on in my warped writer’s mind, I’m posting snippets from the Honor & Duty series as we lead up to the release of Victory from Ashes. Today’s snippet comes from Betrayal from Ashes, Book 5 of the series.
Callusian Battleship Nergal
Savitar VI System
All chatter on the bridge died. Navarch Jurah Dadd, commanding officer of Deathstrike Squadron, stepped off the lift and paused. As he looked around, he waited. The silence brought a sneer to his face. Several of the crew saw and flinched. Good. They knew better than to keep him waiting, especially now. The success of the mission depended on what happened over the next few hours.
“System defenses remain on standby, Navarch,” Senior Lieutenant Luka Antić said.
The Navarch nodded once. Then he crossed the bridge to stand behind the sensors officer. Antić had served with him long enough to know the easiest way to survive was to respond quickly and have solid suggestions if the news wasn’t good. Fortunately for Antić, this news fell into the good category.
Not that the Navarch expected anything different. Their stealth systems were much improved over their last ship’s. He doubted the system had any tech capable of detecting their presence until he chose to metaphorically kick in their front door.
And, by then, it would be too late.
“Excellent. Inform Flight Captain Marić to prepare the payload for delivery. Estimated launch in thirty. I repeat, estimated launch in thirty.”
“Aye, Navarch. Informing Flight Captain Marić to be prepared for estimated launch of the payload in thirty,” the comms officer repeated.
Dadd nodded and settled in his command chair. Around him, the crew worked almost silently, with the efficiency he demanded. Unlike many of his fellow commanders, he believed in discipline on the bridge. His was the only voice to be heard unless the stations needed to share information or give him a report. That discipline worked and he had the bars and stars to prove it.
Just as he had the scars.
Something he needn’t fear with this mission.
And something that rankled more than he could admit to anyone else onboard. The Savitar VI System sat before him, easy prey for his ships. Its defense systems were ancient. Its navy was all but non-existent, at least when facing an enemy like him. This wouldn’t be a fight. It would be a slaughter. His ships would shred the system defenses in minutes. Then it would be on to the capital planet to strip it of resources, intel, and anything else of value. Once that was done, they’d move on to the outer planets. In mere days, Deathstrike Squadron would claim the system for the glory of their homeworld.
Except that wasn’t going to happen.
Unfortunately, and even more unexpectedly, High Command’s orders ran contrary to every other mission he’d been on. Deathstrike Squadron was not to overrun the system. There would be no destruction of the system’s infrastructure beyond its defense capabilities. There would be no looting of its treasury. Those serving under him would be denied their choice of “servants”. None of the usual rewards would be theirs.
Like it or not, High Command had a very specific plan for the system. One he didn’t agree with because it ran contrary to everything he was as a ranking officer in the Callusian Navy.
Command wanted them to act like cowards and that did not sit well. It also opened his command up to mutiny if he wasn’t careful.
Those manning stations around the bridge would never know how much he resented what High Command asked of them. Deathstrike Squadron was one of the most highly decorated and greatly feared squadrons in the Callusians fleet. To ask them to do nothing, to simply destroy a system’s defensive capabilities and withdraw cut deep. He wanted to tell those fools at High Command just that, but he knew better. That was the way to the executioner’s block.
Of course, if the system’s government was foolish enough to go against his ships and if they happened to take a few prisoners in the process, his people would be satisfied. Well, not satisfied but less likely to try to force his hand. He much preferred finishing the mission without having to put down a mutiny in the process.
“Sir, system scanner array is making an adjustment. The trailing edges of the squadron will be in its path in approximately fifteen minutes,” Antić reported.
“Launch drones. Passive power until they are in place. Then take down all sensor arrays and defense platforms.” Not quite according to Command’s orders, but he would not risk his ships, not when there was no reward awaiting them.
The sensors officer repeated his order even as his fingers flew across the virtual keyboard in front of him. As he did, the atmosphere of the bridge changed. Dadd recognized it. He understood the resentment coming from some of the crew. Hell, he shared it. But their duty was to follow orders. If they failed to do so, they brought dishonor on not only themselves but to their shipmates, families and their clans.
“Drones away, Navarch.”
“Contact the Flight Captain. He’s to join me in my ready room.”
The comms officer repeated the order and then sent the message. Once he had, Daad leaned back in his chair and glanced around. Years of command, of navigating the often dangerous waters of advancing through the ranks, taught him to never show concern or fear. Instead, he watched and listened, noting those present who seemed the most rankled by their orders. They would be ones to watch.
As he waited for Flight Captain Adrijan Marić’s arrival, he listened to planetary chatter. His Comms officer, one of the best he’d had in years, understood the importance of knowing not only what the government channels were saying but private ones as well. Often, the first warning a planet had of incoming danger came not from their government but from media sources. He’d be a fool not to monitor the channels, especially considering their current orders.
Flight Captain Marić stood before the command chair and braced to attention. His dark eyes were flat, his expression neutral as he waited for Dadd to recognize him. The Navarch stood and motioned the man toward his ready room.
“I maintain command. Alert me if there is any change in the enemy’s status,” he said before following Marić.
“Permission to speak freely, Navarch?” Marić stood next to the large table in the center of the room.
“Not now.” Daad motioned him to a chair. “I know what you want to say. But you know our orders.”
Marić nodded, his expression betraying his thoughts about the mission. “Sir, you need to know my people are not happy.”
“Not unexpected.” He reached out and input a command on the virtual keyboard in front of him. A moment later, a map of the system appeared over the table. Dadd noted where the drones were in relation to the defense and comms platforms. Then he turned his attention back to Marić. “Flight Captain, I expect you to keep your people in line and to carry out our orders.”
“Sir, they need something. They haven’t been read into the mission and don’t understand that the orders not to take the system come from High Command and not you.”
Dadd allowed himself a soft sigh. Perhaps it was time to deviate slightly from their orders. Besides, whether he agreed with their orders or not, they did make sense in a way. After this day, their enemies would never look at them the same way. Their forces would be feared much more than now. This one mission would finally Callusian superiority over them all. From this point forward, the enemy had two choices: surrender or face total destruction. Dadd’s only regret was that they were using this distant system instead of making a real statement and attacking Fuercon or one of their other more vocal enemies.
“You may brief your people on the basics of our orders. Assure them they will have the chance to follow standard procedures if the system manages to launch against us. Any ships we capture are open territory. But they are not to take the fight groundside without direct orders from me.”
“Thank you, Navarch.”
“Make sure your pilots understand the importance of their mission, Flight Captain. If this works, it will not only bring glory to each of us but it will make our enemy much easier to defeat.”
Marić stood and, with Dadd’s permission, left the ready room. As the hatch slid shut behind him, the Navarch leaned back and blew out a long breath. If he managed to get through the mission without having to put down a mutiny, he’d count himself lucky.
“Sir, probes are in position,” Scanners said as he returned to the bridge.
He listened as his order was relayed. Then he turned his attention to the holo display. Where before only system defense and comms platforms showed up, suddenly the screen was alive with drones. One moment the system platforms were there and the next they were gone. As expected, his crew performed with their usual efficiency.
“Tell the Flight Captain they are cleared to launch. Operation Cataclysm is a go. I repeat. Operation Cataclysm is a go.”
“Sir, we are receiving a message on a loop from the capital planet,” Comms reported.
One corner of Dadd’s mouth lifted. Then he glanced at the chrono. Right on time. Would they be offering surrender, bluster or something else?
“Put it through without acknowledging receipt.” He dropped onto his command chair and waited.
Satisfaction and pride in a mission gone well filled the Navarch as he listened to the ever more desperate comms from the planet surface. The first, as expected, came as challenges from their pathetic navy. Then the system governor came on and a wolf’s smile shown on Dadd’s face. This. This was what made it worthwhile. Knowing the unworthy groveled before them, for their lives. Or that they would very, very soon.
“This is Governor Charles Edward Fonteneau. You have attacked the sovereign system of Savitar VI. Identify yourselves.”
Dadd chuckled softly. A simple flick of one finger signaled the comms officer to open a channel. There was nothing in their orders about maintaining secrecy where their identity was concerned. Now it was time to put the fear of the gods into the infidels.
“This is Navarch Jurah Dadd, commanding officer of the Deathstrike Squadron. Consider this your first lesson in what happens to those who stand against Callusian interests.” Dadd looked to the comms officer and made a slashing motion with one hand. He waited until Comms confirmed the message had been sent and the signal ended. “Continue monitoring their comms.”
“Monitoring their comms, heard.”
“We have missile launch, Navarch!” Tactical announced almost as soon as Comms finished speaking.
Very good. So very good.
“Launch interceptors. Prepare weapons to fire on the launch location,” he ordered.
As those manning their bridge stations carried out his orders, he relaxed a bit more. By taking direct action against the squadron, the locals gave him a reason to allow his people to fight back. He’d let them lay ruin to the launch sites and he’d let them have whatever—and whoever—they wanted off any ships they took. All he had to do to make sure he didn’t run afoul of his own orders was insure they didn’t make landfall.
“Navarch, incoming ships. CIC reads at least half a dozen engine signatures.”
For a moment, the specialist studied the incoming data stream. When he looked up, an almost feral smile touched his lips.
“Nothing bigger than a light cruiser, Navarch. Two of the ships are of a size where they might hold LACs or attack shuttles.”
“Tell Flight Captain Marić to launch LACs to intercept. He knows what to do.”
Hopefully, the LACs would keep the locals busy while the rest of the squadron carried out their real mission. If they managed to build a healthy kill count in the process, he wouldn’t object. Not only would it go a long way to satisfying those under his command, but it would also keep the specially equipped shuttles from being noticed by the locals. Their payload was the only reason the squadron had come to Savitar VI. That meant for the next six hours or so, the squadron had to keep attention focused away from Shennong’s surface. After delivering the payload, the squadron would pull back and observe from a distance. His orders were clear. Once he had confirmation of success or failure, he was to take the squadron out of the system and return home. There the data would be inspected, and the brass would determine what their next step should be.
All they needed to do was ask him. He knew exactly what the next step should be. If the mission was a success, they needed to repeat the process on Fuercon, but only after they did so with Midlothian. Those bastards had turned their backs on his people after offering aid. They needed to pay for their betrayal.
Betrayal from Ashes is available from all major e-book retailers. A print version of the book is also available. Next Saturday, I’ll post a snippet from Risen from Ashes, Book 6 in the series. The latest entry in the series, Victory from Ashes, is now available for pre-order and will be released September 7, 2021. I’ll post snippets from it beginning august 14th–but keep an eye on the blog. The occasional snippet may happen before then. In fact, it might have already happened. VBEG