Chapter 21: The Fleet
Copyright© 2017 by Hunter Johnson
The senior planning group met in the big conference room, ‘command central’, with their assistants.
The room was large but now nearly full. Jason knew that Robert would be relishing the new situation. He would really enjoy having a full canteen.
“I’d like to confirm that the first planet is to be formally known as Mars. Mars was a God of war in my mythology,” said Jason. “This planet will be called Porquenta.”
Matilda MacArthur, the senior intelligence general officer introduced Karen DuPree, her deputy, to summarize the background of the clones on Porquenta.
Jason observed her. She thought clearly and precisely. Her analyses were brilliant. She was strong and heavily built. Her original was from a heavy gravity planet. All the people from her planet were powerful and stocky. Her demeanor was gentle. Her words were carefully considered and her analysis enthralling.
“The clones on Porquenta awoke and researched their backgrounds. Their experience was the same as the clones from Mars. They were angry with their findings. They didn’t like to be cannon fodder for the priests and their allies. The advanced cybernetic group penetrated deeply into the priest’s systems. They planned a planetary take over. They commenced their action nearly three hours before the battleship arrived.
“They saw the Marines from the battleship take over the space dock and joined them in capturing the cruiser undergoing repairs. They captured the AI and IT systems and managed the communications.
“Your first; of four cruisers, is docked and being repaired, My Lord. It’ll be ready prior to the arrival of the first ships on Mars,” confirmed Matilda, “there isn’t enough time to finish the repairs on the others before the arrival of the fleet.”
The clones on Porquenta were awed by Jason. They referred to him as ‘my Lord’ as did the priests. Jason couldn’t change that behavior. Only the most senior of the general staff reverted to informality when they got to know him better. The admirals and generals were significantly less awestruck.
Jason was not comfortable with hero worship.
“Forget all the ‘My Lord’ garbage. Just call me Jason.”
“Yes, my Lord I’ll do so. Sorry, Sir, yes, Sir, Jason I shall do as you ask.”
He began to think about the dogs and how they had changed. They picked up his thoughts and entered the room excitedly transforming as they did so. People around him looked terrified.
He introduced the dogs. One of the ship’s officers was a history buff with a special interest in myths and legends. He said that rage hounds were legendary war dogs that accompanied the demigods. It was alleged they had three horns, could sprout fire and travel through dimensions and time. They were said to be searching for their masters. None had ever been seen and their existence was considered a fairy-tale.
The dogs duly sprouted fire and lightning flashed from their horns.
“These dogs satisfy the criteria of the rage hounds of mythology,” he said firmly, “and you, Sir, Lord Kargo, must be a demigod!”
“Heavens above! I’m no demigod, I’m a reconditioned old crock from a primitive planet with two dogs converted to rage or demonic looking hounds by Porquenta. None of what you saw on the planet was me. It was Porquenta, I’m plain old Jason, and don’t you forget it. Now come on people, let’s get planning, and cut all the formality. General DuPree, please forgive my interruption and carry on,” said Jason smiling.
Jason saw a pack of dogs running together, disappearing and appearing and searching for their masters. He saw Rosie and Lilly with wagging tails showing they were happy to have Jason. They drooled on him and licked his face. They were taller than him when they were standing upright. The officers saw their teeth and sighed collectively. They put their hands on their weapons to protect him from potential attack. The dogs misinterpreted their actions and thought Jason was going to be attacked. They stood in front of him growling ferociously.
“Please sit-down ladies and gentlemen and relax. They are my devoted hounds and won’t harm me, or you, unless provoked. Let’s get on with the meeting,” said Jason grinning while showing the dogs the wardroom. They each gave him a last slobbery lick and disappeared.
“The team from Mars and that from Porquenta both struggled to define objectives after they captured the fleet,” said Matilda MacArthur. “Both sets of plans are ready for us to implement. We can easily get on board fully armed and armored as the implementation and handover teams. We’ll assess the situation and use the necessary force to take over the ships.
“The priests grew clones of themselves on the planet to test the systems. That means we have spies amongst us. We have identified most of them from the records, but acted as if we were unaware of their existence while excluding them from anything of importance.
We have isolated the ones we have identified but can say most of the priests’ clones are not loyal to the priests, but some undoubtedly have infiltrated us. Some of them have been around for two years. Some of them would be spies and others of them would be assassins waiting to be triggered. We are working to try and identify the remainder of them,” said Karen DuPree.
“Send all those you identify to Porquenta. He will get them to work for him and take them off our hands,” said Jason. “I’ll ask Porquenta if he can help us identify potential spies and traitors amongst your group and we’ll send them on to him.”
“Once the fleet is captured, we’ll complete the repair and upgrade of the damaged ships. We have commandeered the cruiser as you know as well as several smaller ships that were being repaired. There’s a cruiser from The Mob coming for repair tomorrow. We’ll capture it on arrival,” said Karen and sat down.
“I want to introduce myself formally and provide you with my background,” said Jason earnestly.
“As, most of you, no doubt know, I was born on Earth, which is in another galaxy. It’s a planet at least sixty-five thousand years behind the Empire in development. My family was sent there from the Empire during the second Mob war a thousand years ago. I was recalled three months ago. My grandparents told me that I was of royal background before we left, and Linda and the medical AI confirmed the genetics. On the way to the Empire I faced a poisoning from a priest and then we were attacked by Mob pirates.
I’ve evidence of the pernicious influence of the priesthood within the Empire and their traitorous alliance with The Mob. The Mob always managed to hide their planets of origin. Despite two major wars they chose death and destruction of their ships rather than capture and fought to the death. Captured Mob members never revealed the location of their core planets. None of their major planets were found, and none captured.
“The common objective for all of us, is revenge on Papa Zora. He has hostages from nearly every important family in the Empire. We need to free the hostages and we need to incarcerate and then destroy Zora and his evil group. The priests must lose control of replicator manufacture and servicing, medical and information technology influence and return to lives of humility and service. The poisoning of trillions within the Empire should never be forgotten. They created you as cannon fodder to fight for them, probably against the Empire; and they gave you no future.
“I’ve had a number of discussions with Porquenta. The priests and their soldiers, other than a few of the leadership, will be released immediately into service with Porquenta. That includes the group on Mars. They will do their penance on the planet.
“I’ve been encouraged by Porquenta to claim Porquenta and Mars. We are commencing the development of Porquenta first and when we are able to do so we’ll begin on Mars. They are both fertile, resource rich planets.
“Porquenta appears to be of the belief that The Mob were incited into war with the Empire. He believes they can become our allies.
“Porquenta is a highly advanced AI, and was built together with the planet. He’s been around for millions of years, and has followed the ebbs and flows of power and influence, while functioning at a low level. He’s now fully awakened and raring to go. He has a lot to contribute. First, he needs his systems ... which are old, antiquated, and failing ... to be repaired and reconstituted. He will use the priests, and any other resources we can give him, to accomplish this. He then intends to build up the planets. He will get our full help while we are awaiting the fleet and then we’ll give him as much aid as we can, for ongoing development.
“Porquenta says that there are other malign powers at work, and they have been instrumental in taking control of Mob planets. Porquenta says The Empire and The Mob both need to be strong to fight these future enemies, and these enemies need to be extracted from Mob society. I wanted you to know his thoughts. This information is part of future planning.
“What some of you saw today, was not me. You are misdirecting your respect and your awe to me. That was all Porquenta, acting through me. By the standards of the Empire I’m a very young man and am fighting to grapple with technology that’s very far ahead of Earth. I’ve read about the Empire, but I’ve never experienced it. I know next to nothing about The Mob.
“The fact that you can put crystals in your head in a different dimension, and fly to the stars, is little short of mind-boggling. We were beginning to clone animals, and the genome was beginning to be understood, but treatment and repair of genes was in its infancy. We could barely fly to our own moon. The idea of artificial intelligence was known but in its earliest development.
“The idea of the existence of ancient life forms like Porquenta wasn’t even part of science-fiction, and I’m not even sure was the substance of fantasy. Three horned dogs that can fly through walls was beyond even the purview of people’s fantasies of the future. Please don’t overrate my capacity, even though I may have had ancestors within the Empire.
“I used a Warhammer given to me by Porquenta, that could shatter bunker doors with ease. My size was enlarged along with my armor as I rampaged through their facility. I make no assertions that I’ll have such help again. That was not me. No one has seen me like that before, and unless I can take Porquenta with me, I suspect that no one will see me like that again.
“I know that I’m the father of many and my genes repair your genes. That’s not the only way you can be normalized and improved. The medical AI is cooperating and will repair all of you. I appreciate your knowledge and expertise to lead this campaign and make a future for all of us. I’ve been lucky in a few engagements, but I now need real expertise to continue. I’ll help, but my role is to help you get done what needs to be done.
“We stand together on the cusp of opportunity; to capture a fleet on each of the planets and take those fleets to mount a surprise assault on Papa Zora.
“Regardless of anything else, you will have a home on Porquenta and Mars. I want to deal with Papa Zora so that it increases your credibility within the Empire and increases the chances that you will be accepted as my ‘family forces,’ and never rejected as clones.”
Jason was surprised and delighted to hear cheers and shouts of acclamation. He indicated to Linda and Andrea to take over the meeting. They smiled at him and summarized the plans to take over the fleets when they arrived over both planets.
Priestly Doubts – Nirvana
“I was very disappointed when I became a priest. I believed it to be a noble occupation. My local priest was a wonderful man. He arranged for me to be sent here for training, as happened with you. As I rose through the ranks I’ve been disgusted with what I’ve seen,” said Anka Pervar to his friend Napar Wick from his hometown.
“I don’t know how we can escape this nightmare. They want me to go and run an orphanage, and deliver as many children as we can for this place. I know they’re briefly housed here and then they disappear. Papa Zora, and his crew of perverts, abuse some of them, and I think they then kill them,” said Napar.
“I thought he was a wonderful man before I got here. I never knew why my father was so opposed to my coming here. He’s a mean grossly obese short man with a perverted superiority complex. No one else here is even slightly overweight except amongst his group of cronies. I had to be a server for him one night. He ate enough for four and close up he looks old. He seems so humble when he talks to us, but there he was boastful and disgusting. He tries to dress like an Emperor when he’s with the inner circle,” said Anka. “My father says he’s an evil man and it’s taken me ‘til now to see it.
“We priests were highly respected in society until Papa Zora assumed power. He’s very clever to hide how evil he really is. Jonno tells me he’s involved in human trafficking and pirate stuff. My father says he’s blackmailing many of the wealthy families. We are used and then forced to become his criminals. He talks of service, poverty, and humility; but we are slaves, trapped into criminal activity.
“I saw his suite. It’s luxurious and he has jeweled swords and lovely furniture. The places he meets people are bare. Our rooms are tiny and cold. Our food is disgusting,” said Napar. “I want to escape, but I can’t see how. We are watched all the time. Soon we’ll be in too deep to escape our crimes.”
“Napar I’ve a hidden communicator. My father knows about him and says something is in the wind. He’s told me to say nothing as he says the Patriarch has a dangerous wide-ranging security service. That we know is true.
“Do you know that the nuns and monks live even worse than we do, and they get all the dirty work. My only advice is watch your mouth. We shouldn’t speak like this again, it’s too dangerous,” said Napar, “you know Jonny had a lot to say, and he seems to have completely disappeared. No one knows or will say anything about him. Poulo his friend asked about Jonny and was told to shut his mouth, or he might be next.”
Papa Zora sat at his conference table looking indulgently at those sitting around his table. The group consisted of some of his senior priests who were his advisory group, his military advisers, and Admiral Peter Kane.
“I am pleased with the progress of our plans, Admiral Kane. Thank you for providing us with a refitted mothballed fleet. Can I confirm that the ships have been modernized, and are ready for our use?” Papa Zora asked unctuously in his most humble voice.
“It was a good idea of yours, Admiral, to use our fleet against the enemies of the Empire. I too feel that the Mob would betray us, and that I’d become a pariah in the Empire if I aided them in their attack on the Empire rather than the hero I’ll be recognized as being. You will be known as the architect and the leader of one of the greatest military victories that could ever be achieved! I’ll bask in your reflected glory. I’ll be saddened when we hear of The Mob invasions of Empire planets but it can’t be helped.
“We can’t do everything,” he continued gently as if what he was saying was genuinely felt. “Can you confirm that the fleet will be picking up the first clones tomorrow, and you will be joining them?” he asked in smug tones, knowing the answer.
“Yes, Sir,” said the senior admiral.
“It will then be close to four weeks before we are ready to pretend to join the ‘The Mob scum’ and launch the first attacks?” Papa Zora asked of Malkinski his intelligence director.
“Yes, Sir. We are in communication with them and they’re very cooperative. They’re very pleased to have the opportunity for revenge against the Empire. The Empire will no doubt retaliate in time, and take back the planets that the Mob attacks, but it will be at great cost to the Empire. We have selected a number of heavy industrial and resource rich planets that are also well defended both above and on the planets, themselves. They represent huge prizes for The Mob. They are of the belief, I’m sure, that we will become redundant to them. They believe we are contributing one cruiser, two destroyers, and some troops. They believe they will acquire the important assets of those planets, and much needed technology. I’m sure they believe they have the better deal, and that you’ve been fooled, Your Eminence.
“I believe your intuition, your eminence. The current leadership of The Mob isn’t likely to be the group with whom you are familiar from your youth. They were subverted from within by the current leadership, who are a dangerous threat to you. I do acknowledge your fear that you could be a real target for them. Nirvana is a lovely planet, and has superb intellectual property.
“They are delighted, that they received from us, what they believe are updated weapons systems. They are more advanced than the existing Mob weapons, but are still are a quantum behind the Empire’s latest offerings,” said Malkinski smiling.
“Our fleet, manned by the clones, will attack their planets while they’re engaged in attacking somewhere between five and seven industrial planets of the Empire. The ships that we have provided are largely worthless and have a number of people aboard them who you’ve informed us are part of your ‘disposable stock’.” Adm. Peter Kane said then sat back, looking at Papa Zora whom he loathed with a deep passion.
Papa Zora smiled.
“Good, it’s going as well as I’d hoped. The Empire knows nothing of our plans, and our people will ensure they won’t know what hits them.”
“Sabas, can you provide us some detail of the progress of your pirate operation?” Papa Zora asked.
The Fleet Arrives
Jason watched the clone teams plan to load and take over the fleets. They worked efficiently and quickly. They planned for every contingency. The plans were timed to the second, and precisely coordinated. Ships wouldn’t escape and warn Papa Zora.
They ran exercises on the battleship and on the intact cruiser and frigates with different sizes of defensive forces.
The officers that came to report all called him ‘My Lord.’ He’d learned to wave Imperially and accept their greeting. He found it amusing but eventually accepted that he was not going to change it. Every day the medical teams wakened more clones. Training teams oriented them and prepared them for their roles.
The captives began to work for Porquenta and seemed to be happy to do so. Porquenta requested that clone groups assemble, in order, close to his mountain for ‘exercises.’ He identified and removed six spies to enter his service. He could, after the first group, evaluate groups of up to a hundred thousand of mixed troops in ten minutes.
Porquenta called Jason for two days of further training. Jason recalled nothing about it, later.
Porquenta extracted a further one hundred and forty nine spies from the clone groups.
A day later Porquenta called both Linda and Andrea to attend a day of intense training. Then Celia Ford and Felicia MacDonald followed them. Later they all described years of simulator work in lifelike battles.
Porquenta told Jason apologetically that he had a few very old and slow learning machines available for his use, as his superior ones had not survived. All of his infrastructure was in the process of being rebuilt. The most complex task was the renewal of the first of his replicators and AIs, then the rebuilding of his electronics factory. All available ship and dock resources were required for the initial tasks for a day. The Engineers from the ships and the military engineers were fully involved in the operation from a few hours after the planetary victory.
The planning team interrogated the prisoners about the source and numbers of the fleet. They didn’t know any details which lead to an intensification of planning and practice. They increased the size of the boarding forces, in case of more defenders.
The fleet announced its arrival in two days at Mars. The fleet would then split after critical staff would be taken on board, and make the trip to Porquenta arriving there the next day. The fleet sent proposed embarkation and equipment loading schedules.
Priests commanded the ships in the fleet. They considered themselves fearsome warriors, despite minimal training and no experience. The commissioning officers from the mothballing planet began the process of handover, remotely. They prepared to familiarize the new crew with the operation of their new ship.
Attack Carrier Titan:
“General James, I heard something that I wanted to tell you about that slipped out from the people on the ground. While I was briefing the captain on the planet I saw a few people from his team talking to the admiral. It was a big hologram and I could see behind the admiral. Let me show you what I saw,” Capt. Hollister said while he set up holo-projection on his tablet.
“Have a look here, Sir, behind the admiral I swear I can see the young archduke, Kargo. What do you think, Sir?”
“Hollister, there’s no doubt whatsoever that we are looking at a member of the Kargo family. He looks just like his great-grandfather. I wonder what on earth this means?”
“Sir, I was together with the rest of my team. Many of them know the King and I’ve no doubt that it’s him. I think there’s more in this than we realize. We think that the Empress has a plan that’s very devious, to surprise the Patriarch. The Emperor publicized the fact that the Empress was sending for the young Archduke. We all laughed when we heard that she was taking the ship of the Patriarch from him in order to retrieve the archduke. I think she knows what his devious plan is, and she’s going to trap him.
“When the king was younger, he reached the rank of admiral. I believe that he had the reputation of being an outstanding admiral. He developed the plans for rapid mobilization and was very interested in the evolution of weapons development. The young Archduke is an ideal candidate to create a surprise for the Patriarch. If he has a quarter of his great-grandfathers strategic ability, taking the fleet will be easy. I can’t wait for the surprise that the priests are going to have.
“Major Johnny Wu has kept his intelligence contacts. He has a good idea of what has happened to the Admiral, and I mean our Admiral Kane. “He says he heard the Admiral was going to Nirvana. Together with his wife, they’re going to visit their son, who they have not seen for seven years. Intelligence knows that Papa Zora takes hostages. Major Wu says that he thinks that they have also taken the admiral’s wife hostage, and are holding the admiral to ransom. We know that he hasn’t given us the critical codes and we have all known him for thousands of years. He’s given us distress codes, so we know he’s under duress. We believe so that he has a plan in mind, or may know more than we think,” Hollister continued.
“I was also wondering whether that might’ve been the case. I knew that his son had entered the priesthood, and we’ve all heard the rumors about hostages. I didn’t know that he was going to visit his son with his wife, but I know that he has a yacht, and any opportunity to fly it he will take. He really misses the hands on joy of flying.
“Let’s assume that there’s the possibility that the group we are going to take on board isn’t hostile to the Empire. If that’s true, we need to try and provide them with as much information as is possible for their takeover of the ships. We need to make it easy for the boarding parties, and we have to be absolutely sure that those idiots on the top of the dunghill don’t get wind of it. The forces on the planet need to know how many defenders there are on each ship. We need to tell them in such a way that if they’re hostile, we didn’t do anything wrong, it’s purely a matter of wording. We also need to try and get the leadership into their hands, if possible. The priests don’t have depth of leadership, and if we can get the Plutarch neutralized, they can’t mount a reasonable defense. The Plutarch told me that they were loading their loyal fanatics from the planets.
“Plutarch Zeaft is an arrogant prima donna, and I think he’s reasonably easily manipulated if praised. He has no idea the ships were not armed properly, despite his group doing their useless inspection.
“Let the Marines know what we are thinking and doing. We need to find a way of persuading the leadership to go to the surface and take us with them. It’ll take only seconds to recognize and confirm if we are dealing with the young Archduke. I suspect this is a trap for the priests, and I don’t want our Marines to get killed fighting our own people.” Gen. Morgan James stated emphatically.
Admiral Kane told the commissioning officers to hand over the fleet at two different planets. He said they were to retrieve forces that had been on maneuvers. They kept alert. They were ready to scuttle the ships. They prepared to evacuate all atmosphere from the ship if needed. They would kill all on board. They refused to give their ships to the enemy. They hated traitors.
The fleet moved into orbit around Mars first. Andrea masquerading as the Plutarch invited the senior officers to the surface for recreation and for discussions on embarkation and loading. The priests insisted the commissioning officers attended with them on the planet after some discussion with Gen. Morgan James.
They were all captured. Clone boarding forces appropriately named as “familiarization officers” simultaneously boarded all the ships and quickly took control while facing little organized resistance, thanks to considerable help from within the ships. The boarders struck with overwhelming force.