The Book Blog

July 14, 2010

A Galaxy At War — Chs. 34 and 35

Copyright 2010 by John Fitch V. To read last week’s exciting installment, click here.

34

Within the next standard year, the secessionist movement grew by leaps and bounds. As the Rebels began to win battles and exploit the GFS’ weaknesses, more planets announced their intent to secede: The Rebels were glad to take them, and they easily protected them.

That is what it came down to — protection. The Rebels could do it; they could afford to do it. The GFS was licking its wounds too much to do anything about it.

Besides, the GFS was looking incredibly vulnerable. It was Ryann and his fleet — it was becoming a dreaded entity throughout the galaxy, with a number of successful campaigns under its belt — that caused everything the Rebels had earned.

Ryann stood on the bridge of Rationale, his flagship over the past year, and he looked out one of the bay windows, looking at all that had become his. His fleet, under his direction, had given him more planets, and had beaten the GFS into near-total submission.

But the government that ruled a majority of the galaxy was still a thorn in his side. They had not yet completely capitulated to the Rebellion, and he would not rest until they did.

He had no reason to rest, as his wife had left him nearly a year to the day. Yet as he stared across the infinity of space, he realized that her departure was a necessary loss. Despite his grief from a year ago, he was being very pragmatic and practical about it all.

She simply did not understand, Ryann reasoned. Sparky, too, to his death, did not understand. It was about bringing simple rights to planets, rights the GFS did not want to grant. He was against the GFS’ stance, and he would do anything within his power to give those planets those rights.

So far, the GFS continued to be stubborn.

In response, the Rebels continued to lash out at them.

It was a growing cycle, one that had no end, or so it seemed.

But Ryann had a plan, a plan that he wanted to include the Rebel leadership in. The leadership, still holed up on that faraway planet, had met with Ryann every day in holoconference. He had never mentioned the plan to anyone before, not even to Stann, his aide.

And when Stann asked what the day’s holoconference with the leadership was to encompass, Ryann just grinned at the young man, the first time in weeks he had done so.

“You’ll see, my loyal friend. You’ll see, and you will understand. It will make the citizens of the galaxy demand the GFS relinquish their planets and will make our side and our commitment to our goals that much stronger.”

Stann looked at his boss, swelled with pride, before he rushed off and transmitted the agenda to the leadership.

Ryann returned his gaze to the width and depth and dark expanse of space. More thoughts came to him of the past year, including many of the campaigns he had run. The droid attacks — the Rebels began implementing the use of war droids six standard months ago, an idea of Ryann’s that the leadership was wary of at first — at Oleniath. The bombing runs of Zensalon. All of the others that seemed to merge and meld into one large battle in what quickly had become a civil war between the two factions.

With every battle, the war grew older. It left planets scarred, killing their ecosystems.

Ryann had grown much older in his looks, too. He would have been shocked if Joslyne had recognized him now, if she ever came back to be with him; he wondered if she had changed or was back in the fold of the GFS. His hair had begun to show signs of gray in his temples, the coloring coming from the great burden of command, the stress of being the leader he was. There were lines under his eyes leading to the creases on the outside of the sockets, for he barely slept, living on a daily supply of stimu-tonic. His muscles ached from standing all day, and he regretted sitting down, for his back yearned for a healthy dose of heat.

He sighed heavily.

Ryann turned and headed away from the bridge, walking briskly toward his conference room, located next to his office and his quarters. His meeting with the leadership would start on time; every meeting did, and this one would be no different.

His plan, the next stage in the war against the GFS, did not necessarily need the leadership’s approval — but since it involved them, he wanted to let them know what was what before he threw them into the fire.

It is only a courtesy, he thought. It is their lives they would be risking. One of them may even be killed by it.

Ryann put that out of his mind as he turned right at the hallway and down it a few feet, coming to the sliding, soundproof doors of the conference room. They slid open, and the tinny sounds of gruff voices pouring from a speaker met his ears.

They’ve already started squabbling, he thought as he rolled his eyes. This is why I tried to get them as far away from me as I could.

He walked in, with the doors sliding shut behind him. The sounds of the bridge became muted.

Ryann walked to the head of his conference table, coming in view of the leadership. The camera was at the other end of the table, pointed directly at the admiral. Their voices became hushed as they saw him come into the picture.

“Good morning, gentlemen. Glad to see we could all make it. And what, if I may ask, were we just arguing about when I walked in?”

“Nothing of importance, Admiral,” Hyram said.

“It didn’t sound like nothing, sir.”

Hyram looked at Ryann through his personal camera with something resembling annoyance.

“We’re getting a little claustrophobic, Admiral. We’ve been on this planet, on this base, for a year. We’ve barely been able to smell fresh air or anything since you’ve put us here.”

“You do look a little pale, sir. But I think I can alleviate your woes.”

“And how do you plan to do that?”

Ryann smiled.

“By letting you in on our next campaign, for the greater glory of the Rebellion.”

The leadership froze for the briefest possible moment before Ryann continued: “Yes, my friends. It has been too long, I agree, for you to be holed up and ferreted away, when there is a great deal of work to be done. Perhaps I was too bold in sending you away — but you all have to admit that my strategies have worked wholeheartedly toward our groups’ advancement in galactic circles.”

Ryann watched as the leaders all nodded their heads.

“So what is your plan, Admiral Germayne?” one of the leaders said.

“A destabilization campaign.”

“I’d say the Galaxy of Free Systems is already destabilized after all of the attacks your starfleet have pulled off this past standard year. How else can you destabilize them?”

Ryann acknowledged the comment with a nod of his head.

“Quite so, sir, and quite simply, too. We’re taking it one step further with this plan.”

The leadership waited on tenterhooks for Ryann to continue. They leaned in as if the sound on their speakers had gone out.

“I want to begin a series of demonstrations on GFS worlds, with you good folks leading them. I want to continue to rally support for the movement, and then show the people how low the GFS can go.”

“How do you plan to do that?” Hyram asked.

“I’m sure you remember, sir, that you asked me to have troops trained in guerilla-type warfare? Well, the time has come for those troops to be set loose.

“A year ago, we ambushed a group of GFS operatives on Ozonacronopolis and had them executed. However, we did not dispose of their uniforms.”

Ryann could see the leaders grinning, as if they knew what he was thinking.

“We will dress our own soldiers in these uniforms, they will attack you while you are giving your speeches, and other Rebel soldiers will ‘repel’ them. We blame the attack on the GFS for interrupting a peaceful demonstration. The GFS, of course, will deny it. But as it will happen with Galaxy-Wide News broadcasting live, the evidence of the attack will be hard for the GFS to refute.”

The leadership chuckled.

But Hyram, who did not chuckle, made his voice be heard over the clamor.

“Are we to understand, Admiral, that you wish our own soldiers to attack us? Why does this worry me?”

Because you are paranoid, sir, Ryann thought with a grin. It is because you still do not trust me, even after a standard year of service to this cause.

He shook it off just as quickly.

“They will attack, yes, but they will be instructed to go for non-lethal areas of the body. You will also be wearing a shield under your clothing, which will deflect any attempts on your life. This shield is designed to stop a photonic blast as well as an electro-dagger. You will be well protected, sir. You have my assurances of that,” Ryann answered, keeping his eyes on Hyram as he spoke.

“I will now transmit to you my plan in full, as well as the worlds I want covered for these operations. If you could set your data consoles to receive, Stann will transmit them.”

As soon as the leaders had flipped the switches, Ryann nodded to Stann, who nodded back and began to input a series of keystrokes into his computer. When he was done, he nodded back to Ryann, who then gave a short nod in acknowledgment.

“You all should be receiving the document now. Please review it, and we will discuss it during our next meeting tomorrow morning.”

Ryann closed down the link to the cameras, then turned to Stann.

“Are you swelling with pride yet, Stann?” he asked his aide.

Stann just smiled and said, “Oh Yes sir. Overflowing with pride. I have so much pride spilling out of me, you could make a holoposter of it for recruiting.”

Ryann chuckled.

“Put it on the agenda for tomorrow and let Hyram decide it,” he said with a touch of sarcasm.

“What do you think they’ll say tomorrow, Admiral?” Stann asked, ignoring Ryann’s comment.

Ryann sighed deeply.

“I don’t have an inkling of what they will say; more than likely they’ll try to get around the issue of having themselves as bait for a trap. I’ll make them see reason, though. I’ll make them see it is time for them to be at the front of this effort now.”

35

The next day came, and Ryann received his answer.

“We’re for this plan, Admiral,” Hyram said as they began the daily holoconference. “Our only concern is for our safety.”

“Such as?”

Hyram was startled. He turned to the left and then paused, then looked back at Ryann as if he hadn’t heard correctly.

“Well, such as our getting to and from the planets, especially if they are GFS worlds. There is no way we can get in and out without a little trouble.”

“We will have support craft not a system away,” Ryann said. “One short jump through subspace, and our fighters and cruisers will be there to extract you should there be a problem.”

“And how about getting us there? If their controllers see a Rebel registry with our entry ship, it’ll take more than a subspace jump to save us.”

“It is why we will not use Rebel registries, and we will use different transports every time. We will not jeopardize your safety. I think you all should know this. Every contingency has been planned for, and we will make sure you get out alive, along with every trooper we insert. Every person will be extracted.”

Ryann paused to look down at his notes, then returned his attention to the leaders.

“Now, we need to make arrangements for you to rejoin us. Since we are no longer on Ozonacronopolis, we need to arrange for rooms to be prepared for your arrival. It’ll only take us a few standard days to ensure that everything is perfect, so you’ll only be there a little while longer.”

“Good,” one of the leaders, Forrester, said. “My family wants to see new people, and we want to see blue sky again.”

“You will, sir. You’ll be seeing plenty of blue sky over the course of the next standard month. That is how long I expect our destabilization campaign to last.”

“Only a month, Admiral?” Hyram said.

“Yes sir. Only a month will be needed. I am hoping that by the end of that time, the GFS will acquiesce to any demand we make, and this war will be over. We will make sure that every planet that wants its right to govern itself will have it, and Greensteen will not be able to refuse.

“I will have Stann draw up orders for Imperium to return to us immediately, and the captain will receive them momentarily. We will have you back here in no time.”

Ryann moved to turn the cameras off, ending the meeting. Once they were off, he turned to his aide and rattled off a list of orders so long it would keep him busy for hours. They both walked out of the conference room to the hissing of the sliding doors and walked toward Rationale’s bridge.

“Stann, I first want you to draw up orders for the Imperium and the other cruisers to return to the fleet. Then, contact requisition and have them find room in the upper levels for the leadership to be ready as soon as possible. I want a squad of people on that.”

Stann’s fingers were going across the input screen like a cruiser flying through subspace.

“Third, I want half of the ground troopers assigned GFS uniforms. Tell them they will meet in the hangar bay of Rationale for the arrival of Imperium. Their mission itinerary will be explained by me at that time. The other half of the ground troopers will stick with Rebel uniforms, and they will escort the leadership to the first planet on the list.”

“What will the first planet be, sir?”

“Azurell.”

His aide paused in mid-stride.

“A key GFS world,” Stann mused.

“Exactly. It will be the first. It does not have the firepower to go against us, but it does have a small contingent of GFS forces, all wearing the same uniforms we are issuing. It will work like clockwork. Keep up, Stann.”

“Yes sir, sorry sir.”

“It’s OK, Stann. Then I want you to relay a command to our units in that quadrant to be alerted to our presence on the planet and to monitor tight beam communications coming from the planet as soon as the leaders are inserted. Tell them further orders will come from me as necessary.

“I want this to be done for every planet that we attempt to destabilize. It will be a lengthy campaign, one I believe will work. You have your orders, Stann. Please carry them out and then report to the captain when you are through.”

“Yes sir,” Stann said, turning on his heel and going back the way he came. Ryann breathed a heavy sigh of relief, then walked over to the bridge.

“Status report,” he said as he arrived.

“Not a blip on the screen, Admiral,” Wallis said.

“I didn’t think there would be. Commander, we’ll be making for Azurell within the next couple of days. We will be beginning a campaign to destabilize the GFS, and I fully expect a war to break out over this.”

“The GFS doesn’t have a great deal of armament on Azurell, sir,” Wallis pointed out. “Is Azurell that important of a world?”

“It is. It is possibly the most important of the bunch. If we can capture it, we can use it as a staging ground for an attack upon Geldine.”

Wallis’s eyebrows raised slightly.

“Very interesting, sir. Does this mean we will stop running after a planetary conquest?”

“For now, yes. I don’t intend on losing this planet any more than the GFS intends to, even though they don’t know they are going to lose it. We can use Azurell as a completely new base of operations as soon as they go over to our side, because they will. As soon as they learn that the GFS is behind the attack on our leadership, they will clearly secede, and that will be the end of that. It will be the first step toward winning planetary freedoms for all in the galaxy.

“I have faith that we will be able to do this. I have faith that we will achieve victory, and Azurell is the first step toward winning those freedoms.

“I will be in my cabin, Captain. Stann will report to you when all the arrangements are made for the leadership to return. I am hoping that everything will be completed within two standard days, and they will be here on the third.”

“I will make sure everything aboard Rationale is prepared for their arrival, Admiral.”

“I had no doubt you would. Carry on, Commander.”

Ryann turned and headed toward his cabin with his hands clasped behind him at his lower back. He sidestepped an oncoming solider and continued at a brisk stride to the cabin, allowing the sliding doors to open before he stepped in.

Once the doors had slid behind him, a breathed a weary sigh. He took off his white jacket and slung it across a chair, then fell into his bed. He reached under the pillow and felt the cold metal frame of the holo he kept there.

He smiled, then fell asleep.

To be continued… right here.

If you can’t wait to see what happens next week, you can download A Galaxy At War for your Amazon Kindle device or app here; if you have a Nook, a Sony Reader or the iPad, you can download the book here. You can also order the trade paperback version here, or you can order it from barnesandnoble.com.

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