First Strike–Snippet 2

28 Feb

Chapter One

“It’s confirmed, then?”

“I believe so, Ambassador,” the young official said. He’d been allowed access to the Debating Chamber, a honour that had carefully not been granted to Earth’s Ambassador to the Association of Worlds. An insult, or an admission of shame? “The Hegemony and its allies will get the concessions they seek.”

Ambassador Li Shan kept her face impassive, even as her mind raced frantically. The Association had claimed the space surrounding Earth – and Earth itself – for thousands of years. Seeing no need to actually occupy Earth, they’d simply left the planet and its solar system alone to develop in peace – a peace that had been broken fifteen scant years ago. The Association was weakening and the wolves were at the door. It could still have saved itself, or at least saved Earth long enough for the human race to grow into a galactic superpower, but its population no longer had the drive to impose their will on the universe. Their birth rate was down to almost nothing, while the biological immortality they had gifted themselves with stole their willingness to risk their lives.

“It may be some time before we get the official note,” the young man said. He was almost painfully young, the American representative to Earth’s first off-world embassy. Shan sometimes wondered if he was as naive as he seemed, even though Americans were painfully bad at learning from history. “They’re going to have to come up with some way to salvage their pride…”

“It doubt it will include anything like Earth’s continued independence,” Shan said, flatly. To the Galactics, humanity was a minor upstart power, only in space because a rogue Association Oligarch had given them the technology to escape Earth’s gravity well. The idea of taking humanity seriously…well, the Association was thousands of years old, while the Hegemony and its allies didn’t want another competitor. Humanity would be enslaved or exterminated, like several other races who had had the misfortune to be discovered by the Hegemony before they could defend themselves. “Go speak to the Communications officer. I will require a secure line to Luna in one hour.”

The young man nodded and left, leaving Shan alone with her thoughts. Fifteen years of intensive effort, building a space-based industry and then a small fleet…would it be enough to protect Earth when the Hegemony came calling? She doubted it. The Hegemony had been bloodied in a dozen minor conflicts with its allies, gaining a reputation for brutality that allowed it to even cow the Association. Shan couldn’t understand how any so-called interstellar superpower could allow itself to be bullied by the younger races, but in the end it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that the Hegemony and its allies now had a clear line to Earth. They’d taken Terra Nova five years ago. Now they’d come for the rest of humanity.

She looked up through the forcefield and into an alien sky. Great cities drifted above the landscape, casting dark shadows on the fields below. The Association had mastered the technology of food production long ago, allowing them to return their world to the wild while they clustered in giant floating cities. It was a minor feat compared to some of their early technological projects, ones that awed humanity and many of the Galactics. But they’d lost their drive and now they did nothing, beyond maintaining their technology. One day, they might even forget how to do that.

There were millions of contact labourers working within the Association, she knew. Many of them were human, desperately studying their technology and society while doing the work that their masters were no longer prepared to do for themselves. Others came from the Hegemony or a dozen other interstellar races, carving out their own enslaves within the once-proud Association. The secrets behind the Association’s technology had slowly leaked out to the rest of the galaxy, societies that had had more lead time than humanity. One day, the Association would wake up to discover that the Hegemony or one of the other Galactics had developed more advanced technology – and that would be the end of the Association. They wouldn’t see it coming. The Association had been the masters of the known galaxy for so long that any change in the balance of power was inconceivable.

Maybe they’d change, she told herself, but she knew it was futile. The Mandarins of China hadn’t changed in time to prevent the Western barbarians from stamping all over the country, or to avoid a long and bitter civil war between Nationalists and Communists. And whatever happened to the Association, it would come too late to save Earth.


Admiral Tobias Sampson, Chief of Naval Operations, studied the message in front of him thoughtfully. A weaker man would have cursed, or shouted at the universe, but Tobias had long since grown accustomed to the disparity between Earth and the Galactics. The Federation Navy was working desperately to remedy that disparity, and many of the advanced weapons programs were showing some considerable promise, yet they might have come too late. Ambassador Li’s message made that clear.

The Association had expanded outwards at astonishing speed once they’d mastered interstellar travel, but its population had actually started to contract once they’d discovered how to make themselves immortal. They’d claimed hundreds of light years worth of space that they no longer had the inclination to settle, a region of space including Earth. The Association had watched Earth – their historical records had settled many of humanity’s questions about its own past – but they had never bothered to make contact openly. Why should they? Humanity was a primitive race. What could it offer the Association beyond slave labour and a few trinkets?

Tobias scowled. He’d been a young Lieutenant in the United States Navy when Mentor – a rogue Oligarch – had made contact with Earth. Mentor’s warning about more advanced societies inhabiting the galaxy had scared hell out of humanity’s leaders, with good reason. His gifts of technology had solved many of humanity’s problems, all the while making Earth a more tempting target to the barbarians who prowled the borders of the Association looking for victims. Tobias had transferred into the Federation Navy – Earth’s new space-based defence force – as soon as it had been possible. He’d always wanted to fly in space. Fifteen years of climbing through the ranks – and sound political manoeuvring – had left him as the senior uniformed officer in the Federation Navy. Right now, he was more inclined to wonder if he’d taken a poisoned chalice.

Humanity had worked hard ever since Earth had entered the galactic scene. There were hundreds of thousands of humans living and working outside the solar system, sending back reports to Federation Intelligence. They knew more about their possible – hell, their probable – opponents than their enemies probably realised. And yet every last piece of information seemed to confirm the simple fact that humanity was badly outgunned by the Hegemony alone. The Federation Navy simply couldn’t stand up to their juggernaut if they came after Earth.

His gaze slipped to a single photograph on the otherwise-drab bulkhead. His daughter and her husband had gone to settle Terra Nova, the first world humanity had discovered that didn’t require extensive terraforming before it became habitable. They’d looked forward to the promise of creating a new society away from Earth. But then the Hegemony had bullied the Association into granting them Terra Nova – it was in Association-claimed space – and occupied the colony. There had been nothing that the human race could do to prevent the Hegemony from enslaving the population. Tobias hadn’t heard anything from his daughter for the last five years.

Carefully, he walked over to the safe set in the bulkhead and pressed his hand against the sensor. It read his fingerprints – and the implant concealed in his palm – and activated the retina scanner, which scanned his eye quickly, matching it against the pattern stored within its secure database. Only three people had been granted access to the safe and the techs swore that no one, even with the very best of Association technology, would be able to break in without triggering security protocols that would reduce the contents to atoms. Tobias hoped that they were right. The operational plans concealed within the safe would be disastrous if they became public knowledge. He had no confidence in the media’s patriotism if they somehow learned of the plans. They’d be more likely to tell the entire universe.

He removed one set of papers and closed the safe behind him, carrying the papers back to his desk. The operation plan had been updated ever since it had first been devised, after the occupation of Terra Nova. Back then, Tobias’s predecessor had vetoed the plan, pointing out that humanity didn’t have the military power to carry it out successfully. Now…

It was a gamble, Tobias admitted. They would be literally betting everything on one throw of the dice. Yet what choice did they have? The Hegemony was winning permission from the Association to take the sector of space that included Earth – and Tobias knew better than to think they would leave Earth alone. Humanity’s network of industrial stations and gas giant mining platforms – one of humanity’s few interstellar exports – were a tempting prize. Why would the Hegemony bother to leave Earth alone when they could just take everything humanity had built at minimal risk? And if they had time to mass their firepower against Earth, the Federation Navy would lose.

He keyed a switch on his desk. “Lieutenant Chamfers,” he ordered, “have my shuttle prepared to leave in one hour.”

“Certainly, sir,” the Lieutenant said. “What should I give as the destination?”

Tobias smiled. “Iceland,” he said.


The Federation was the result of a series of political compromises that – typically – pleased almost no one. Unlike the United Nations, it was dominated by the nations that paid the bills, each nation being granted a percentage of votes that matched the amount of the total operating budget they paid. Officially, the Federation Assembly was based in Geneva, but it was little more than a debating chamber. Representatives voted as they were told to vote by their governments, with little regard for global feelings. It put a great many noses out of joint, yet there was little they could do about it. With access to the boundless resources of outer space, there was no need to court Third World states any longer.

For meetings and conferences that couldn’t be allowed to become public, there was a secondary base in Iceland. World leaders would board shuttles in their capital cities and proceed directly to the base, bypassing all of the tedious diplomatic formalities. As the Federation’s CNO, Tobias had the acknowledged right to summon such a meeting at will – although he wasn’t fool enough to think that his position would survive if he summoned them to Iceland on a whim. There were enough issues with gathering the most important world leaders in one place to turn any security officer’s hair white.

The shuttle grounded on the landing pad and he disembarked, ruefully aware of the invisible security sensors scanning him for weapons and other surprises. Tiny nanomachines floated in the air, ready to invade his body and paralyse him if he made one false move. There was no way he could feel their presence, yet he always felt a shiver as he walked through their position and down into the waiting hanger. The base had little on the surface to attract attention. All of the conference facilities were deep underground, protected by layers of rock from orbital and nuclear strikes. There were similar bunkers being prepared for the civilian population in a dozen different countries, but Tobias had often wondered how useful they would actually be. The population would emerge into a world devastated by alien kinetic strikes and antimatter bombs.

He walked into the conference room, paused long enough to salute the small cluster of flags at one corner of the compartment, and then stopped behind his chair. Earth’s leaders looked back at him, almost certainly aware of what he had come to discuss. They would have their own sources within the Federation Navy, or its diplomatic service. Ambassador Li’s report would probably be common knowledge by now. Earth’s struggle for independence was about to begin.

The Japanese Prime Minister, who was the current chairman, spoke into the silence. “Thank you for coming, Admiral,” he said, as if Tobias hadn’t been the one who had called the meeting. “We understand that you have matters you wish to discuss with us.”

Tobias nodded. “Thank you, Prime Minister,” he said. He cleared his throat. “We have been informed by Ambassador Li that the Hegemony’s quest to be granted supremacy in our sector of space is about to be completed. The Association had shown no signs of being willing to stand up to their constant pressure. We must assume that the Hegemony will lay its own claim to this sector within the next six months.

“We have also learned, through a source I am not at liberty to discuss, that the Hegemony’s Emperor and his Court have already started dividing up our territory between them. Earth itself will be put under the control of the Crown Prince and our colonies will be distributed among his cronies. Exactly how they intend to assert their control over Earth is unclear, but given that they have a habit of using demonstration nuclear strikes against civilian targets…”

He allowed his voice to trail off, giving them a moment to grasp the implications. One law of interstellar warfare had been deduced long before humanity had made its way into space. Whoever controlled the orbital space around a planet controlled that planet. They could drop rocks on the inhabitants at will and there was nothing the inhabitants could do to stop it.

“But we have to do something,” the President of France protested. “Can’t the Navy stop them?”

“If they have time to concentrate their forces against us,” Tobias said, evenly, “we will be badly outgunned.”

“There’s no diplomatic angle we can follow?” The German Chancellor asked. “No way we can convince the other interstellar powers to intervene?”

“They’re too scared of the Hegemony,” the President of Russia snarled. “It looks like it’s us against the universe. And we can’t even surrender unless we want to be treated like those colonists on Terra Nova.”

“There is one possibility,” Tobias admitted. This was the difficult part. He had to convince them to gamble with the lives of everyone on Earth. “We strike first.”

There was a long pause. “Explain yourself,” the Chinese Premier said. “How do you believe we can win a war if we start it ourselves?”

Tobias smiled. “The Hegemony’s supply lines are actually quite long,” he said. “Apart from their squadron at Terra Nova and their base at Teflon, most of their forces are watching their borders with their rivals. Over the next few months, we are expecting them to start moving additional battleships down to Terra Nova and use them to drive on Earth – assuming we don’t roll over for them like good little primitives. We have a window of opportunity to break their control over Terra Nova, smash a large part of their fleet and then go on the offensive. They would have to choose between shifting their forces to smash us, which would risk weakening their borders with their rivals, or accepting our liberation of Terra Nova.”

“It’s a hell of a gamble,” the President of the United States observed. “We might be giving them a Pearl Harbour of their own to rally around. In the long run, we’d be obliterated.”

“Japan has had its own experiences with launching first strikes,” the Japanese Prime Minister agreed. “I cannot advise the tactic against an alien force that outguns us…”

“But it wouldn’t if we smashed their battle squadron at Terra Nova,” the Russian President pointed out. “They wouldn’t exactly be looking at parity, but they’d have to strip their borders bare to concentrate a superior force against us. And it isn’t as if Terra Nova is that important to them.”

“Except as a symbol of pride,” the French President said. “But the other option is surrender…”

The British Prime Minister looked at Tobias. “I assume your staff have run war games and simulations,” he said. “How do they play out?”

“It depends on a number of different factors,” Tobias admitted. Some aliens thought like humans, others were very…well, alien. The psychologists thought that the key to beating the Hegemony was to undermine their faith in themselves. “Assuming we win the first battles, we have a fifty-fifty chance of ultimate victory – victory being defined as survival as an independent power. It is possible that the Hegemony will find itself attacked along its other borders, which will give us time to build an impregnable position we can hold indefinitely. On the other hand, the Hegemony’s enemies may choose to refrain from pressing them while they crush the upstart human race.”

“Or the Association might intervene,” the French President mused.

“Perhaps,” Tobias agreed. It didn’t seem too likely. “Or perhaps the horse will learn to sing.”

“It seems that we have a choice between fighting now or fighting in a year, under much worse conditions,” the American President said. He didn’t look comfortable with the decision. Tobias could hardly blame him. Americans liked the wars to be honourable – but there was nothing honourable in what the Hegemony was planning to do. “I call for a vote.”

Tobias watched the votes mount up, an overwhelming majority in favour of launching a strike on Terra Nova before the Hegemony had time to prepare. They believed they could digest humanity at will. The Federation Navy would show them differently. Humanity had a vast heritage of science-fiction books and movies to use for inspiration. The aliens tended to view them as little more than comedies.

“Thank you,” he said, as the vote concluded. There would be war. “The Navy won’t let you down.”


20 Responses to “First Strike–Snippet 2”

  1. The Deposed King March 2, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    A bit of an abrupt jump from snippet one to snippet two. On the other hand its quite interesting.

    By official order of Federation Naval High Command, you are hereby ordered to Launch the Asteriod Attack Fleet for a pre-emptive strike, immediately!!!

    In addition our entire reserve fleet (you know those old civilain death traps that weren’t worth the cost of upgrading to non-death trap status) are being mobilized and ordered sent deep behind enemy lines for commerce raiding. By the time those old clunkers reach the enema worlds the battle for Terra Nova should be over one way or the other.

    In addition the Clunker Fleet will have excessive warm bodies for crew and we only expect a 75% survival rate among the ships. 1/4th of the ships are estimated to never actually reach the Hegemony Shipping lanes, and break down instead but with their over large crews, the ones that actually reach the Hegemony, should be able to send many prize crews over to man those unarmed Hegemony Freighters.and run them back to human space.

    Common wisdom would indicate attacking splitting your forces in this manner to be insanely foolish. However the Clunker Fleet adds no appreciable combat power to the main fleet, being armed with a variety of older civilian weapons from multiple races inside and outside of the Association. Their value as decoys to draw off enemy fire should replaceable with sensor decoys and small rocks with normal space propulsion systems. Also if we are to win and acheive an acceptable end solution for this thing we must plan for Victory in the early stages and make every effort to capitalize on our efforts.

    As such the Clunkers have been assembled as an all volunteer force, and are required to proclaim themselves an independent pirate force and make every effort to help continue to foster this illusion among the Hegemony. A number of aliens from conquered Hegemony worlds have been assigned to the clunkers, so that not only human faces are seen with this new raiding force.

    The Supply lines will be cut and whatever materials that cannot safely be transported back to earth are to be used at the discression of the individual ship Captains. Secret Bases and helping fund local resistance movements on worlds of other alien races already conquered by the Hegemony are to be considered a priority. Although broad leeway has been given.

    Frankly a 1:1 loss ratio of our old civilian conversions to their freighters would be considered an acceptable result for this independent deep penetration task force.

    Anything that can be made to look like the work of a force other than earth, and divert enemy strenght from its battle fleet to commerce protection roles can only help humanity and hurt the hegemony in the long run.

    The Deposed King

  2. The Deposed King March 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Also if the Hegemony are the creeping barbarians at the gates like they are portrayed as. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have lots of ‘rogue captains’ and ‘pirates’ who just happen to be a part of their species but which the Hegemony loudly proclaims they have no control over. Thus the Association is expected to turn a blind eye. The Hegemony likely argues that they cannot be held accountable for the actions of a few rogue members of its race (while everyone knows the Emperor is directly commissioning them)

    When the Earth Commerce Raiders of the Clunker Fleet start making waves the Hegemony will scream bloody murder and blame earth.

    At this point you can have Ambassador Li Shan lift a speech verbatim from one of the many Hegemony Denials to the association. About how Humanity is much like the Hegemony. Neither polity can claim responsibility for every member of its species. She can play the irony card as heavily as possible.

    It would make for a fun little scene with the Hegemony demanding ‘sanctions’ against earth from the Association and Earth copying the Hegemony’s previous defenses against this very thing when it was their turn at possible sanctions.

    Perhaps swaying things slightly on the galactic political scene. You could emphasize how humanity’s ambassador feels she has the power to monumentally screw things up if she mis-speaks or doesn’t play the Association crowd just right. On the other hand pretty much no matter how good a speech or how logical the argument she has limited ability to sway inter-galactic opinion and their responses to the little bush war in the Human Sector.

    The Deposed King

    • chrishanger March 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

      Well, I saw the prologue as setting the scene – the real story starts about fifteen years later.

      I don’t know about an asteroid fleet, but there will be much use of special human-designed weapons. And freighters built at Sol – cheaper than Association ships. I like the idea of the Clunker fleet – a few ships outfitted for commerce raiding. The Hegemony has been raiding whenever it thought it could get away with it – as you can probably tell, the Association has been in steep decline for quite some time.

      Li will be very involved with the story. Maybe the way you suggest. I’m writing out the overall war right now, then I can fit in the story.


  3. The Deposed King March 3, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    Well depending on your technology, especially your star drive. Asteroid Ships might not only be ineffective (slow normal space drives i.e. sitting ducks) but also impossible, as in too large if/or not constructed correctly. They can’t go to warp speeds. They tend to blow up spectaculary with every attempt.

    Maybe they are only useful as a one time surprise, since everyone knows you can’t build asteroid ships. Their combat power is negligable but their surprise factor make it one in a handful of Federation Naval force, one hit wonder, tricks up their sleeves.

    Slap some ECM on the Asteroids and let the enemy think they’ve got the Federation Fleet cornered agaisnt jupiter. They are busy pounding hte stuffing out of the decoys and then the Fleet proper pops up behind them. I do like the idea of the Federation Admiral thinking how he’s got to go platinum seven times, with a series of non-repeatable gimicks like an asteriod fleet or an ionic weapon that as soon as they they know about it and can modulate their shields will be completely ineffective. Yet that’s what he’s got, a small fleet, that they don’t really know how it stacks up ship for ship against the Hegemony, and a series of one time wonders, unrepeatable ambushes and surprise attacks that have to hit the enemy as hard as possible. To give them any chance of carrying the day, when it comes down to the slug fest.

    Or whatever, drop the whole asteroid Idea. I’m not saying its the be all end all. Just a thought. Sounds like you’ve got some surprises of your own you’ve been working up.

    Another thought: Maybe 10k of troops in stealthed power armor or small shuttles just sitting, waiting along the enemy’s most probably approach. The Admiral knows the range of his decoy fleet’s civilian lasers. They know the range of the Hegemony’s standard military specs. He has the Decoy fleet manuever the Hegemony into an ideal location, from the Hegemony’s intention of pounding the humans to stuffing. the Hegemony follows its standard military doctrine and stands off outside of the decoy fleet range and starts to pound them to scraps. The Decoy Fleet is slow and plays up protecting a few wounded ships, slowing down the pace of combat, meaning the Hegemony slows down as well.

    Using the new shield penetration device. Which unfortunately requires large shuttle sized carrying devices to power it and also completely removes the possibility of stealth. The new Penetrating Techlology is only useful against sitting targets that can’t move out of the way, or in overwhelming numbers of giant shuttle sized missiles, or for the new Strike Lancers, who where hiding all powered down or behind an asteriod, or withing a shielded construct of some type. They come roaring out of hiding right at the slow moving Hegemony battle fleet. 80% are destroyed even still because of their large and easily trackable drive signiature.

    The other 2k power armored humans wreck some havok. Destroying some and capturing one or two for later R&D purposes.

    Or maybe a combination of the penetrater tech shuttles. The shuttles are destroyed for the most part but not before taking down the shields, the floating Black Space Commandos see which ships are now unsheilded and light up their detachable thruster packs for a high burn intercept. Again they can get shot out of space but if the Hegemony is dealing with the Decoys, who could turn deadly if they got in close and literally thousands of small power armored contacts at close range. Again even if their point defence was great, the power armored guys could be heavily stealthed and in large enough numbers than 80% casualties would still allow for a couple thousand highly trained boarding specialists to sacrifice their lives forcing the Hegemony warships to self destruct. And maybe 1% actually survive the Jupiter Assault Jump (or Terra Nova Death Jump, where ever it takes place). Crippling losses. Yet with the combined, Decoy, Commando Jump, Regular Fleet suprise attack, the Admiral manages to gut out a win.

    Pound for pound and cost for cost its a smashing success, one that tastes like the ashes of victory in his mouth.

    Because I mean it doesn’t have to be 10k. It could be 10K trained Commandos and 90K volunteers with 2 weeks or two months short training, so that they make certain that even the 10k trained federation (stealthed) power armored decoys have their own decoys. Perhaps unstealthed power armored decoys, drawn from every nation on earth.

    Just make the death toll enormous. And honestly every nation on the world, 3rd world or 1st world can spare 1k if men who already know or can rapidly learn to use a suit. If every nation lost a thousand men, but was part of the victorious first strike against a Main Hegemony Battle Fleet…. a great PR win and a shared sacrifice to help pull the world together. You could even have the Secruity Council foist off on him the other 90k. He was going to drop that contingency because he felt the few points added the chance of success wasn’t worth it. But they learned about it and foisted it off on him anyway.

    So now his plan, one that he rejected as too casualty intensive, is being deployed and he’s the man who has to order 100k men to their almost certain deaths.

    This also gives you some POV characters in the ground pounders. Regular Fleet marines and Grounder Volunteers (Flat Worlders or Ground Huggers versus the Space Cases or Space Rangers or Space Cadets) for the rapidly expanding Federation Naval Forces. Both regular commando versus volunteer pounders, and marine versus fleet view points.

    And if the moral is in the tank or suspected of being in the tank because of 99% battle losses for people who were ‘volunteered’ by their home governments, you could even roll some of the survivors into the Federation Commandos and send the rest out to reinforce the Clunker Fleet. Perhaps in the first few Prize Hegemony Freighters that came back loaded with whatever they’d been transporting, perhaps captured by a few Successful Clunker Captain. Captains desperate for reinforcements to help them capitalize on their successes. And screaming for reinforcements to help them drive their successful raiding ventures home. Could be sent back loaded with these surviving and disaffected regular earth armed forces.

    Have the Strategic and Political realities mean that by the time earth could send over real reinforcements, Associatio ‘Observers’ are going to be there watching the Federation Navy’s every move. (Hegemony is talking about war crimes and Human’s using whatever the inter-galactic WMD equivalent is, the humans didn’t but now the Hegemony managed to get Association Observers, meaning hegemony paid spys onto every major earth combat vessel) Do a little for shadowing of the coming Observers. But essentially now the Admiral has to not only fool the enemy, he has to fool their paid spies on his ship. Then also if he’s going to do any lightning raids or suprise attacks it has to be before the Assocaion Observers can relay his suspected battle plans ot the enemy. You could have lots of fun with false information campaigns and eathers trying to figure out who among the observers they can trust.

    Plot wise, Meaning Earth is soon going to be at the point they have to ‘effectively’ cut off the Clunkers entirely and publicly disavow them as pirates, and along with any openly identified members. If they are captured the earth judicial courts would be required to execute them for the sake of the Association Observers and the inter-galactic community.

    So essentially the Clunker Captains are sent out. Everything they send back is gobbled up by the regular Home Forces. They at first promised a few regular war ships as soon as they can be shaken loose. But in the end run, they get no substantial reinfocements, they are publicly marked for death by their own Human Federation and all they get along the way are several thousand disaffected (and most pointedly untrained in space operations) and heavily armed ground pounders.

    Along the way one or two of the Clunker Captains made links with a local alien resistance movement. He promised them Federation support, which has been ever more rapidly evaporating. More and more the Clunkers keep getting secret words of encouragment, less and less in the way of actual support along with pulbic cries for their heads. They are slowly being cut off and hunted down.

    So one clunker group decides to go all in with a local insurgency, the other stays loyal to humanity, if not those faithless federation stooges, and forges some direct ties with real interstellar pirates. Each group (isolated from eachother in separate sections of Hegemony space and don’t know the other exists) stop sending captured ships back to human space both for practical reasons (its too heavily patrolled) and internal moral reasons (we’ve sent back how much? and what have we seen for it? more demands to keep dying out here for the homeworld and nothing, not so much as a moldly ration bar in support! instead we have legal death warrents out for the Captain!)

    So one group starts selling its stuff at a genuine pirate base so they can upgrade their ship or get a new one. A real (and large) warship to take the fight to the Hegemony with (and maybe pick up some crew, freedome fighters or thsoe with such sympathies against the Hegemony). The other group starts off loading what they get on the potentially rebellious world full of aliens captured by the Hegemony. Perhaps even using the natives of this world to sell back to Hegemony Beuracrats the very freight goods they’d captured off Hegemony Bonded freighters?

    If earth can’t recognize a tractical and strategic master stroke when its presented to them on a silver platter, then the local captain/commodore will just have to wrap it up in with a little bow and force it down High Command’s timorous little throats. It seems like ever since the first surprise attack on terra nova, the Admiral and Secuirty Council have turned into a bunch of lilly livered ninny’s. Too afraid to roll the dice and try for a real win. (he doesn’t know about the secret ship yards about to spit out a new generation of warships, and the Federation Council’s direct interference in the war). So he gets in bed with the local insurgency and swears himself to the local cause. Perhaps picking up local alien resisitors to help run his captured freighters. Depending on how corrupt the Hegemony is you could even have this guy, founding a small little interstellar freight company crewed by these natives, using the ships he’s captured from the hegemony.

    The newly alien crewed freighters just have to do most of their operating out in another minor interstellar power. Perhaps even buying legal privateer papers, back dated from before earth sent them for a pretty penny. Meaning that if earth things it can execute them for pirates, becasue they don’t care neough about the clunkers, the captain of this group isn’t about to let a bunch of beuracrats kill his men for doing their patriotic duty. So he goes to the Black Trade Collective and spends a million credits purchasing legal privateer papers and only has to give the B.T.C. 4% of his take.

    Something like that. Anyway have your little patriots, at least these two groups of them, start out loyal to the death, and then eventually work their way into having a semi-independent power base. With no support they aren’t as interested in slavishly following every order given by high command.

    I think I’ve gone on entirely too long here.

    Have blast Chris,

    The Deposed King

  4. The Deposed King March 3, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    I mean heck fire. If the Clunkers hear about how its was the Association that forced their Homeworld to issue death warrents for them. To keep the men loyal to the cause and not angry at the Federation, the local Captain might start raiding Association Shipping as well. Especially if Hegemony shipping its getting too heavily guarded.

    Earth Council would be pissed, the Admiral would be unhappy and having a difficult time understanding the situation. The Captain would be angrily doing ‘what was right’ and conversely the Association might actually start to believe the human Clunkers are genuine pirates. I mean even plucky little earth wouldn’t be in insane enough to start raiding the Association when that is teh only thing keeping them from being immediately destroyed.

    The Deposed King

  5. The Deposed King March 3, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    Perhaps after the genuine raiding of the Association, the Hegemony hands over a handful of humans captured during the early days. Just so the Emperor can have the satisfaction of watching Earth Council and the Navy execute their own men.

    The Federation Council feels its in a bind and with the way the others turned into real pirates orders the execution. The Admiral Protests that his could cause more disaffection with the still operating clunkers, and these men were loyal sons, maybe they should take the risk and not kill them. The Council says they were warned this might be a result and if a few have to die to save the human race that’s tough but its just their patriotic duty.

    When the still operating Clunkers find out about this, even their loyal Captains start making contingency plans for a life outside the welcoming arms of Earth Gov.

    Maybe the one group really does disavow earth and join the local alien resistance network. They’ll be the first new captains and admirals of the aliens after the liberation. Screw earth and its backstabbing ways. They’ll also time things right so that at the same time Earth gets around to planning its nice big battle to the death offensive, the Clunkers and the ground pounder green beret equivalent trainers will attempt to liberate one or more worlds form the Hegemony. They’ll set up their own proper little interstellar government. Consisting of the Aliens and their former colony world, earth can sit on its own thumb and spin.

    The aliens are delighted, their main leader is actually honorable, unlike perhaps some of the others, (potential discord down the road) and while they’d be behind earth in factories, they’d have a fully trained population spread throughout several worlds, the making of a formerly and once again independent little space empire.

    Nothing ticks a Government off than when former members of the military they hung out to dry, join another and down the road competing group.

    The Pirate group on the other hand maybe it doesn’t feel as disaffected. Maybe they feel responsible for their piratical ways forcing earth gov’s hand? not sure, but they are somewhere between and have to make a choice. They are still a bunch of loose cannons carreening through space behind enemy lines and happily blowing up Hegemony miltary recourses with their new ship. But do they return to the loving arms of earth gov or do they throw in with their fellow clunker and their wild eyed liberation movement?

    The Deposed King

  6. chrishanger March 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    Those are cool ideas – want to be the Admiral in command of Operation Clunker?

    I do have the idea that there is a gray area around the Association where there is a great deal of criminal activity of all kinds, so the pirates could find a home there of sorts. Certainly a base. Maybe the Federation would disavow them if necessary, like you suggest.

    One issue is that of Hegemony ships in neutral ports. That’s going to be a hiccup in the early stages of the war, as hitting someone else’s planet might cause the war to grow out of control.


  7. The Deposed King March 4, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Yeah I could be the Clunker Admiral. Although…. I was thinking maybe the commander or surviving commander of operation Clunker should be a Commodore.

    But perhaps (reserve/retired) Rear Admiral Wachter. Called back to service from his civilian merchant freight line (his ship(s) conscripted to naval service along with himself). And only brought back into the Naval fold due to the looming emergency and pending surprise attack.

    After that business with disobeying orders at Terra Nova and almost causing an interstellar incident with a ‘missing’ Hegemony Heavy Cruiser. (or destroyer)

    He was the youngest Admiral in the Fleet (at the time the aliens seized Terra Nova) and convinced they could down take the Hegemony Fleet (he did that dirtiest of sins, and went and proved it by bush wacking a Heavy Cruiser on the sly)

    However the strategic picture and size of the Hegemony Home Fleet precluded such an action in the eyes of Earth Council and Fleet High Command. The Hegemony could never pin the loss on the Federation directly and so instead of being hung out to dry and executed, he was quietly court martialed and drummed out of the service. Either on half pay or forced retirement as a Commodore.

    When a throw away ‘forlorn hope’ of commerce raiding volunteers were being assembled, The Federation High Admiral couldn’t justify pulling officers out of the regular fleet. So the Clunkers are instead being lead by an assortment of Reserve, Retired and and in some case entirely civilian Captains, Officers and crew. Human patriots with enough knowledge and skills to be dangerous but really how much trouble could they cause, outside of the unguarded Hegemony Freight-lines?

    Commodore Watcher was given the, you’re in the army now, you’ve just been conscripted speech. Your choice not between civilian life and the military, instead is whether or not you’re going to spend this war riding things out on a Space Station. An unarmed moon base transhipment point. Or are you going to man up and be the officer you always claimed you were and lead a couple squadrons of civilian commerce raiders deep behind enemy lines. If you say no, be aware your ship and any crew who volunteer are going to be sent out there anyway.

    Then after realy twisting the knife, in a hard assed, I’m Fleet Admiral and my duty to Humanity requires us to play the big boy games and cut out all that snot nosed rookie ensign style whining, the Fleet Admiral promises that while its risky and the Federation might have to take some strong official positions and officially disavow the Clunkers if things go from bad to worse than expected, that privately the Admiral and Earth Gov will always have Operation Clunker’s back. Plus of course if things go wrong the Clunkers will probably all be dead at that point anyway. But the High Admiral assures the now Commodore Wachter that this is the real deal, there will be no more of this Terra Nova scape goat action on the part of High Command and that in this offical Clunker capacity Commodore wachter will have a free hand and very loose operational orders. He’s free to be as much of a loose cannon as he is reputed to be. So go give them hell son.

    Emphasizing how the Fleet Command Admiral is willing to play hard ball and coerce others into doing what is best for humanity, when its necessary, but that he also has a streak of honor in him. Which will only make the perceived betrayal by Earth Gov and most especially the Japanese, Chinese and Russian members of the Federation Council who narrowly voted to execute the Clunker Prisoners to save face on the inter-galactic scene, all the more poignant.

    You could also have Admiral Wachter be a born citizen of Terra Nova (another reason he was quietly let go from naval service). So when (to his eyes) the Command Admiral’s promise to always have the Clunkers back, is followed months later by Earth Gov’s decision to execute some of his men for PR points, and when Humanity is already in a fight to the death and PR shouldn’t matter, Admiral Wachter has had enough.

    He may still consider himself loyal to Humanity as a whole and whoever is still alive in Terra Nova proper (his family perhaps) but Earth Gov and the Federation Navy can fly a kite or go straight to Hell all he cares. They are only as valuable to him as what he can get out of them. Commodore Wachter, goes back to calling himself Admiral Wachter and starts making his own plans. Perhaps throwing in with the local conquered alien resistance network. (especially if there are any human slaves from Terra Nova, that he could look to liberate? perhaps a distant relative, friend or family member he hasn’t seen in twenty years, ever since Earth Gov weasled out and just handed them over to the Hegemony) Something to give it that nice personal touch, to push a man over the edge and at the same time link him into the local slave/resistance network.

    They only call it mutiny and rebellion in the history books an it be unsuccessful. He’s not going to lift a hand against fellow humans unless they lift it against him first. On the other hand enough pussy footing around and waiting for a proper weather window, like the Federation Navy, he’s going to take it to the enemy where they live.

    Perhaps by book two or three Admiral Wachter is planning an ambitious strike against the Hegemony Trigonomous Shipyard Complex. After finding out the location of this ‘secret’ Hegemony Naval base Admiral Wachter sees the chance to destroy or capture most of it in one fell swoop. His plan is to do his best to cripple the Hegemony Fleet Supply and Warship Production capability and at the same time transport back some of it to his own burgeoning little secret base. Perhaps capturing a few half completed Hegemony Battleships in the process?

    He could go from being perceived as either a raging lunatic completely off his rocker by some or a dangerously unstable loose cannon with delusions of grandure by others maybe one or two only think he could just playing his role to the hilt (dressing up like blackbeard or other famous pirates and issuing manifestos on freedom and liberty, calling the Hegemony Emperor a ‘Scurvy Dog’ and other such cartoonish holo-vid actions which personally insult the Emperor and make him divert recourses to hunting down the Clunkers).

    The Federation Analysts are split in their opinions and after things started to go sour (politically) on the Clunker Sideline Front, the Command Admiral is keeping his opinions close to the vest.. Everyone else thinks Commodore Wachter is just a man pushed over the edge by 6 months or two years of extreme combat behind enemy lines. The man needs an extended stay in a psych rehabilitation ward and to stop being a PR thorn in Earth Gov and the Federation Fleet’s side. Why can’t he just die or come home with his tail tucked firmly between his legs? All he’s doing is riling up the Emperor and making a peace settlement more and more unlikely.

    Then Wacther pulls off a string of stunning blows and successes against the Emperor and his Navy. Now instead of shaking their head at the cartoonish lunatic, they are instead going oh my god, he actually did it. He’s not ‘just’ insane after all. He said he was going to do and then he did.

    You know what would be fun. If Admiral Wachter starts publicly taking credit for everything that starts going wrong inside the empire, and unknowingly takes credit for the actions of a group of cut off Clunkers on the other side of the Hegemony. It would make for a funny little scene when and if he ever actually did meet up with the other Clunkers. Plus you could have Admiral Wachter making calculated blows to make it look like he is just a half crazed pirate/freedome fighter. He kidnaps the Emperors Cousin. Maybe one the emperor was sending off to be executed and so said cousin is willing to do what he can to make his cousin the emperor’s life as miserable as possible.

    Maybe the resistance network knew about the execution and was just going to stand by but Wachter stepped in and saved the Cousin. But while privately the Cousin is kept in comfort, publicly Wachter is ‘punishing’ the Cousin for the Crimes of the Imperial Family by making him work like the ‘slave’ the Emperor forced so many others to be. Something demeaning, maybe better than what I’ve come up with.

    But its only for show, just to tweak the nose of the emperor. Images of the cousin scrubbing the decks of Wachter’s ship are probably better. He can then go on and say how at least Wachter pays the Cousin for his hard labor (image of him throwing a few gold coins down on the floor in front of the cousin) the Emperor makes unwilling workers, slave away for free labor but Wachter and the cause of Freedom never will. Thus only implying the Cousin was a Slave not actually saying it.

    The Hegemony Emperor is at first forced to deal with Wachter because it a blow against imperial dignity. Wachter keeps making it personal between himself and the Emperor. Then later, just like Wachter becomes a little too into his role, the Emperor becomes obsessed with destroying the Upstart Human. You could emphasize how both of them have a little fun with it and try to portray the humor of their situation but in private they are each hard eyed and determined to put an end with the other if at all possible. They could both get some PR milage out of the thing. Wachter becomes the face of resistance, willing to stand up to the emperor, while the emperor gets to make some ‘smart’ decisions that fly in the face of pig headed military thinking by his Admirals and General, by saying how he’s been personally insulted and that’s why he’s not doing (whatever crazy thing) they suggested.

    Of you know take it your own way. Totally serious. Hams it up, Mix and match. Don’t go this way at all. Whatever works. Just a few fun little ideas to kick around.

    Might be fun to do like you did with Dauntless and Lightning. Split it into two books.

    Or not. But at first maybe you focus on the High Admiral and his gambits and maneuvers. AS they storm through the local sector of space humanity is located in, rolling their way up the supply lines all the way to the Hegemony border worlds. This gives you the chance to focus on fleet manuvers and daring do with marines and fleet officers. Then like with Japan and America, things slow down. Its more a war of maneuver and focused on taking certain hard points. Neither side wants to risk everything on one throw of the dice until and unless its going to be decisive. Maybe the Admiral was willing to go for it but was reigned back in by Earth Gov.

    Then you can slow down, and have the fighting focused on a couple worlds and systems, like the island bases in the pacific. Sneaking task groups around. Individual ships duking it out in bloody but strategicaly non-decisive engagements.

    Then you can focus more on the Clunkers as the Federation Fleet has to go to more dealing with Association Observers, politics, and small little penny packet brush fire engagements. Maybe Earth Gov. Tries for a peaceful solution, after this big fight. Much like Japan they thought if they hit hard enough the Hegemony would be willing to sue for peace.

    Which only makes the actions of the Clunkers all the more unhelpful in the eyes of Earth Gov. Not sure. Take it and run.

    Also I’m not sure about the Hegemony ships in neutral ports? Do you mean warships on warships? How does the Federation get warships to a neutral port? Are they desperately trying to purchase star drives and other high tech goodies from another minor power and run into a Hegemony Squadron? Or are you talking commerce raiding. What’s the rationale, are there some singleton warships from both sides out running merchant escort duty when the war suddenly flares up? Wouldn’t earth have recalled their ships for the surprise attack? Unless they thought this might be noticed?

    More info before i can help out with that.

    Anyway have a blast.

    The Deposed King

  8. The Deposed King March 4, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    Plus it might be fun to contrast how the Clunkers are viewed on Earth versus inside the Hegemony. On earth Wachter is Lunatic with a few screws loose who, even though he puts his money where his mouth is, is still just a flamboyant pirate. In the Hegemony he becomes a brave folk hero. The only sentient willing to openly stand up to the emperor. The Hegemony Citizens reluctantly admire his balls and want the honor of killing him, the Slave and 2nd class citizens of other races come to admire and secretly root for him. The truth is somewhere in between.

    The Naval forces on both sides however have their own views.

    I was thinking for the secret base… you could locate it outside the Hegemony, on the edge of assocaition space, in your gray zone. Or you could find a rogue wandering planet or uninhabitable system in the Hegemony. If you actually do have a group of cut off clunkers with their own base in pirate territory, you could have a comedy of errors. Hegemony High Command learns from their spies in the grey zone the clunkers are located in a secret base out there. So they focus their efforts on finding this secret base and give the other group hell.

    Meanwhile Wachter actually has his base located inside the Hegemony. Near a seditious world. He keeps expecting to have to move but apparently a base inside the Hegemony is the last thing they expected? Or however you want to play it. I think having a decoy base and a real super duper secret hidden base is just plain the way to go long term. Wherever the bases are actually located.

    The Deposed King

  9. The Deposed King March 4, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    Plus I’d think the Clunker Headache Situation would also be an ideal way to show case Ambassador Li in the Association. The Federation and Hegemony can’t argue about the actual war itself. At least not all the time, so they end up focusing on smaller side issues, like the Hegemony and Federation Pirates.

    Li has to keep trying for a pox on all their houses situation. Or whatever. I’m not sure how far you are going with the Ambassador but you said she was going to have an important role in the plot.

    The Deposed King

    • chrishanger March 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

      True. There’s also the fact that parts of the Association (like Mentor) aren’t too happy with the military decay (which they view with about as much enthuisam as the Romans did the barbarian enroachments). Li can use this to keep the Association offically uninvolved in the fighting.


  10. The Deposed King March 4, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    I had another silly thought. You could have Wachter portraying himself as just another humble ship captain, who’d had enough and was rising up against the oppression of the Hegemony Aristocracy.

    But the Emperors advisors decide the Emperor can’t be seen as under attack by anything humble. So the Emperor of the Hegemony make a big to do, where he officially promotes Wachter to Pirate Admiral and places a bounty on his head. Dead or alive preferably dead.

    Not sure if it fits but it was a hilarious little idea.

    The Deposed King

    • chrishanger March 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

      That would definately make sense from their point of view, particularly if he started to win a number of embarassing sucesses.

  11. George Phillies March 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Japan has had its own experiences with launching first strikes,

    The 1905 one worked well.

    • chrishanger March 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

      Which is pretty much what I had in mind.


  12. The Deposed King March 7, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    If there is anything else I can do on the idea front just let me know.

    The Deposed King

    • chrishanger March 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

      All ideas are welcome – no promises about using them, however.
      I’m leaning towards having force fields that protect cities, allowing ground offenses to take place in this universe.


  13. chrishanger March 7, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Here’s something I’ve been trying to decide.

    One idea for FTL in this universe is Star Trek-style warp drive. This allows the defender to detect the attacker as they enter the solar system – surprise attacks are very difficult. I wasn’t going to allow interception while in FTL though.

    The other is Babylon 5-style hyperspace. This would allow for slightly more chaotic warfare – it might be possible to detect an incoming attacker, but it would also be possible to surprise the enemy.

    What do you think?


  14. The Deposed King March 8, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    Well for city sized force fields you need to explain the tech behind it a bit. But it could be lots of fun.

    Also with the Warp Drive idea, I’d think you could appear far enough outside and coast into the system on slow drives. I guess it depends on how far out you can detect this warp drive.

    In my mind I was just going with the whole warp drive thing. Have to think about a hyperspace option a bit and see if anything comes to me.

    New tech ideas are interdiction tech to drop the other ship out of warp and stealth tech, get down below warp one and you can coast in to light minutes away instead of light years or what so ever you have for sensor technology.

    The Deposed King

  15. The Deposed King March 9, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    Ultimately you have to go with an option that allows for surprise attacks. I think your human side is going to need it.

    Can’t just rely on slight of hand (see my hand over here, don’t mind the sensor shadows you see slipping around behind the gas giant)

    So I’d go with warp, but I can totally see how a B5 type hyperspace would be oodles of fun as well. Ultimately if you’ve got a good visual and a firm idea of one or the other, that allows you to do commerce raiding and surprise attacks on merchant convoys and war fleets, go for it.

    The Deposed King

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