Today I bring you the First Chapter for Freedom Vs. Aliens, the soon to be released third book in the Aliens series by my friend T. Jackson King.
“Jack Munroe’s anti-Alien crusade runs into a roadblock. The Unity rulers of Earth attack his Asteroid Belt home. They aim to ally with the predatory Hunters of the Great Dark. But Jack is not about to let Earth be run by Alien predators who treat subject peoples as serfs and tasty snacks. He attacks Unity space bases on Earth, destroys the Unity headquarters in Switzerland and encourages America and other nations to reclaim their independence. Jack then leads a fleet of powerful starships out to the stars to make a Freedom Alliance with subject Aliens. That requires finding common ground for Humans, the Melagun hippos and the ChikHo ostriches. Which he vows to do. Jack is determined to subvert a galactic system that says only carnivore predators can travel star-to-star!”
Playing soccer on a grassy field in a cave inside the asteroid 253 Mathilde had seemed to Jack like a fun thing to do. Then rocks began falling from the ceiling and the ground vibrated under his feet.
“Max!” he called over the comlink tab pinned to his jumpsuit. “What the hell’s going on?” He looked at the twenty-eight people who, like him, had stopped playing soccer. Rocks now fell inside Mathilde, thanks to the one gee grav-pull field newly installed inside the cave. “Everyone head for your vacsuits and the Dock Cavern! Archibald, kill the gravity in here so we can move faster.”
His lifemate Nikola grabbed her carrybag even as Maureen the veteran ran past them headed for the airlock that connected their soccer cave with the Dock Cavern. Which held their fleet allies and the giant rotating torus in which lived 12,000 people. The comlink spoke.
“Thermonukes!” Max yelled from the Uhuru. “Five frigate-sized ships blip jumped into local space just above Nikola’s scope building. They launched five thermonuke torps at the surface!”
“Jack!” called his sister Elaine as she arrived on a floater flatbed. “Get on! It’s faster than running or weightless jumping.”
He followed Nikola and jumped onto the floater just as Archibald ran up to the tripod and globe housing of the grav-pull gravity generator and cut power to it. Around them other people used floaters to rescue people who had not kicked off toward the airlock.
“Why is this place not cracked open?” he yelled to Max over the comlink tab.
His engineer buddy cursed in Polish. “They seem to be three megaton thermonukes, not the biggies like our fleet thermonuke torps.”
Watching as Maureen reached the inner hatch of the airlock, Jack felt shock, worry and then anger. His heart beat fast as he realized five 50 megaton thermonukes would have broken open the 53 kilometer wide globe of Mathilde like a rotten eggshell. But who was attacking them? The Brazilians on the Moon and the Chinese on Mars were part of the anti-Alien alliance he’d created just six months ago, before their nine ships had left Sol system and headed out into interstellar space. And since Max had not said the frigate-like ships were Alien, that left just one source.
“Max! Those have to be Unity spaceships. Where’s the Uhuru? And the rest of our fleet and Gareth’s fleet?”
They arrived at the open airlock hatch and ran through it as Maureen gestured to Hurry Up! even as her gray eyes looked ready to kill someone. Jack, Nikola, Elaine and Maureen began pulling on their vacsuits even as other soccer players arrived and crowded into the room, calling for news.
“Quiet!” he yelled, zipping up the front of his vacsuit, then grabbing his helmet globe. “Five frigates have attacked us with small thermonuke torps! Head for your ships or your homes in the torus!”
“Our ship is in the Dock Cavern!” Max grunted hurriedly as if he was doing three things at once. “Gareth’s ship is here, with our fleet. The rest of Gareth’s fleet is out on system patrol. As is Hideyoshi’s Mars fleet. No Belter ship was nearby when these frigates arrived! Denise called to say she’s on the way here, as is my Blodwen. Gareth is leaving the torus and heading for his ship with some of his crew. I’m powering up our Battle Module. We’ll be ready to go after these bastards as soon as you folks get here!”
With helmet sealed and internal vacsuit comlink activated, Jack followed Nikola, Maureen, Elaine, Archibald and two dozen other folks out through the outer airlock hatch and into the yellow-lighted space of the Dock Cavern. He boarded the floater flatbed that Maureen had pulled through the airlock along with his crewmates and took in the busyness of the Dock Cavern. A place three kilometers wide that was partly filled with docked or free-floating Belter spaceships, plus a few cargo transports that resembled giant soccer balls. The 200 meter length of the Uhuru rapidly drew close to him and his people as Maureen, cursing in Gaelic, hammered at the Control pedastal. He saw another floater already pulling up to the midbody Lander airlock. Two women. A redhead and a blond. Denise and Blodwen no doubt.
“Max!” he called over his comlink as their floater flatbed bumped up against the one ridden by his ComChief and Sociologist. “Fire up the modulated neutrino comlink! Call Hideyoshi! Tell him I need him here yesterday!”
“Powering up!” he said gruffly, as if not welcoming one more thing to do beyond bringing their fusion pulse drive to Pinch Mode and setting the grav-pull module to readiness for blip jumping the moment they exited the tunnel that led into the Dock Cavern.
Jack followed everyone into his ship’s large airlock. The outer hatch was tapped into fast closure by wild-haired Archibald. “Sealed!” the Brit physicist said. “Maureen?”
“Pressurizing!” yelled their Irish grandma who, at 78, had more energy than the seven of them combined.
The inner hatch opened quickly and they all piled into the Spine hallway, running fast in the one gree gravity that was a gift of the Alien-built grav-pull drive module. Jack caught up to Maureen just as the rad-tanned woman jumped through the Pilot cabin hatch, heading for her Combat station seat up front. He ran past Max and took his Tech station seat at Maureen’s left just as Elaine dropped into her Pilot station seat. Behind them Denise filled the ComChief station, Nikola sat in her Chief Astronomer seat behind Jack, Blodwen sat behind Max in her Sociologist station and Archibald dropped wearily into his Physics station seat beside Blodwen. He waved a vacsuited hand back to his ComChief.
“Denise! Link me up with Hideyoshi on the Bismarck! Max, move us out of this cavern and into the tunnel on thrusters! Maureen, get the hell out of that chair and back to your Battle Module! We’re likely to be firing our beamers just seconds after we reach open space. The rest of you keep your traps shut!”
“Heading back!” growled Maureen as she jumped out of her station seat and headed back to take direct control of the Fire Control panel that guided her antimatter and neutral particle beam emitters in the Battle Module. Which lay at the rear of the Uhuru.
Jack tapped on his Tech panel and set it to Combat mode, tapping on the touch controls for the two spine-mounted railguns and the hydrogen-fluoride laser pods that lay on the starboard and port sides of the Uhuru.
“Connected!” called Denise. “Live AV up front.”
Jack fixed on the worried-looking face of Admiral Hideyoshi Minamoto, leader of the Mars fleet of grav-pull ships and a man with more combat experience than anyone other than Maureen. “Admiral, there are five enemy frigates in space above Nikola’s Big Eye scope station. Which one of our spysats says is now a glowing radioactive pit. Along with four other pits from thermonuke torps! That puts the enemy near Mathilde’s north pole and on the side opposite from our Dock Cavern tunnel. I’m taking the Uhuru out and heading to our south pole vector,” he said hurriedly, mouth feeling too dry. “I need you and the Bismarck here now! We need your antimatter beamer, particle beamer and lasers to hit those ships from the side opposite to our approach. Can you do it?”
The Asian man’s thin black eyebrows creased together. “We are one-third of the way around Sol system from you. Even at eighty percent of lightspeed we cannot be there sooner than a half hour.”
Jack pointed at the Alien-built drive module that sat next to Max. “Use your Alcubierre drive shell module! You can be here within two minutes. And your arrival will not leave a tell-tale graviton pulse. I want us to both appear suddenly and fire on them before they can aim their own particle beams at us!”
The man nodded abruptly. “Will do. Give me the spatial coordinates for where you want the Bismarck to arrive.”
“Nikola!” he yelled, then lowered his voice. “Transmit the coordinates for your scope station plus a hundred kilometers altitude to the admiral.”
“Sending!” she said, sounding breathless as if the run up the Spine hallway had left her short of breath.
Jack looked back at the man who had never failed to follow his orders. “In two minutes we will arrive opposite these five ships. Kill them! By whatever means available!”
“Jack!” called Maureen from a holo that popped up above his Tech panel. “Second round of thermonukes fired! Aimed at the equatorial region of Mathilde. This place can’t take much more pounding like that.”
He knew that. The lives of 12,000 people rode on the pending actions of him and Hideyoshi. Among them the lives of his Mom and Dad, who lived in the rotating habitat torus that occupied the rooftop portion of the Dock Cavern. Glancing through the porthole on the left of his seat he saw small pieces of rock free floating in the cavern. The fat spearhead shape of his Welsh ally’s ship Dragon now showed controlled movement as its maneuvering thrusters fired yellowly, moving its blunt nose to point toward the exit tunnel. And toward his ship. “Max! Move us out of here.” He looked back at Denise, whose two red braids framed a face that looked younger than her nineteen years. “ComChief, keep the neutrino comlink open to Hideyoshi but open an encrypted AV Come-Back signal to Gareth! Do it fast!”
The woman blinked her jade green eyes, licked her pale lips and nodded. “Channel open!”
The front screen of the Pilot cabin split into three segments. The left segment showed the five Unity frigates holding position above the north pole of Mathilde, with the yellow-white gases of the second round of thermonuke explosions expanding outward from the asteroid’s surface. Hideyoshi’s image moved to the right. The middle filled with the broad shoulders and brown gaze of Gareth Davies. The man’s full black beard filled the lower half of his vacsuit helmet.
“We’re right behind you!” the Welshman said.
Jack nodded, his mind whirling with spatial relationships, attack tactics and his plan to kill all five ships at once. Using the Uhuru and the Bismarck. But they each had only two sudden-kill weapons in the antimatter and particle beamers. The Dragon would bring the weapon needed to kill the fifth ship. “Gareth, follow close beside me. We’re heading for a south pole vector, then curve around to come up beneath the enemy ships. Hideyoshi will arrive above them. Use your antimatter beam to kill one the ships!”
“Will do,” the middle-aged man said as, behind him, his fellow Welsh crewmates worked at their own stations. “We could use our Higgs Disruptor set at wide footprint to disintegrate all five at once?”
Jack shook his head. “No! I want to keep the Higgs secret from the Unity Naval Command as long as possible. Plus I want to salvage at least one NavTrack computer from an enemy ship. And maybe the grav-pull drives of those ships.” He looked up at the image of the admiral. An image that was real-time thanks to the passage of their neutrino signal through another dimension, according to Archibald. “Admiral, you heard me. You take out two ships. Maureen will take out two and Gareth will kill the fifth ship. Understood?”
“Understood.” The man looked aside as one of his crewmen came up, dressed in Mars red formal uniform. “We are entering Alcubierre drive shell now!”
The man’s screen image wavered, grew jagged from the gravitational lensing that preceeded any ship going into either grav-pull drive or Alcubierre FTL drive, then it disappeared. Leaving him looking at Gareth and the five frigate class ships of Earth’s Communitarian Unity. He wondered why the Unity had chosen to attack the Asteroid Belt now, not that long after the death of former Dictat Ludwig Carsten Berthold Maathias aboard the HikHikSot colony ship. And how had the Unity ships found 253 Mathilde? It was a base left over from the First Belter Rebellion in 2072 and not known to Earth. Somehow they had learned it was the base for Jack’s fleet of seven ships and now attacked.
“Exiting the tunnel,” Elaine called from her Pilot station. She tapped on her NavTrack panel, causing their vector line to appear on the front screen as a third image that showed them turning toward the asteroid’s south pole.
“Max! Take us to the south pole on fusion pulse thrust! Stay off grav-pull! Don’t want to emit a graviton pulse that these bastards will detect on their gravitomagnetic sensors,” Jack said. “Let’s have them looking in every direction for Belter attack!”
“Moving from Pinch Mode to thrust now,” called Max from behind them.
On the front screen a second ship vector joined theirs as Gareth’s Dragon moved up alongside them on his own fusion thrust. Jack looked right to where his sister sat, working her NavTrack panel. “Elaine, you heard what I said to Gareth. Enter that course vector and give me a two second warning before we arrive at the asteroid’s equator. And keep us to ground-hugging! Damned well don’t want those Unity ships to know we are here until we fire on them!”
“Vector laid in,” she said softly. “I’m glad Ignacio is out on patrol.”
“Following your vector,” Gareth called.
Jack turned back to watch the front screen images of Gareth, the five Unity frigates and their navigational vector track. He understood his sister’s worry for her Basque boyfriend. Ignacio Aldecoa and his cousins were always the first to attack, the first to find a way out of an impossible situation and among the few ships to have lost crew during their earlier space battles against the HikHikSot Aliens.
Below them the gray rock surface of the carbonaceous chrondrite asteroid that was 253 Mathlide moved by in a near blur. They could not speed along at the twenty percent of lightspeed normally allowed by their fusion pulse drive, let alone the eighty percent of lightspeed granted them by the Alien-built gravity-pull ship drives. To date their three fleets possessed only grav-pull drives salvaged from Alien ships killed in Sol system and in their recent interstellar voyage to the HikHikSot home system. Maybe that would change in the future. The presence of five Unity frigates arriving here on grav-pull said the Unity government of Earth had built new grav-pull drives from the engineering specs given them when the HikHikSot Aliens had tried to add Earth to their Hunt territory. The Aliens were social carnivores who resembled a cross of cheetahs with leopards. It seemed that tech gift had now encouraged someone on Earth to try to reclaim control of Sol system from the rebellion led by Jack, Gareth and Hideyoshi.
“Two seconds!” called Elaine. She tapped on her panel. “Putting up a north ecliptic Tactical Display view of Mathilde, the enemy ships and our ships.”
“Ready to fire!” called Maureen from the holo above Jack’s lap.
The front screen went hazy briefly, then a new image joined the ones before them.
“Arrived!” called Hideyoshi from the Command Bridge of the Prince Otto von Bismarck heavy cruiser. “Lieutenant Lopez is ready to fire our beamers.”
Jack watched as, flying just five kilometers above the asteroid’s surface, they rounded its equatorial bulge and came into view of the five Unity frigates. He saw ships that were hundred meter long spearheads fitted with energy weapons domes, railgun launchers and attack landers attached to the belly of each ship.
“Sensors say we are being painted by lidar and maser scans!” called Elaine.
“Fire!” Jack yelled.
A blue neutral particle beam and a black antineutron antimatter beam shot out from the Uhuru, impacting on two of the five ships. A second pair of such beams shot down from the Bismarck on the two outer Unity ships. The Dragon shot its sole antimatter beam at the middle ship.
Death in space usually happens quickly.
The three frigates hit by antimatter beams grew yellow-white flame globes in their middle, then exploded into ionized gases as their onboard fusion reactors lost magfield containment and added their fusion plasmas to the total matter-to-energy plasma caused by the antimatter beams.
The two remaining frigates were sliced in half, then into three pieces each by a second blue particle beam from the Uhuru.
Jack tapped his Fire Control panel, aiming the dual railguns of the Uhuru at the fragments of the two Unity frigates. Each railgun was loaded with a barrel of steel ball bearings that would exit the railgun launcher at near planetary escape velocity. “Ventilating the frigate fragments. We do not need living captives when their NavTrack computers will tell us what base they left from and who gave them the orders to attack us.” He looked up at the older man of Japanese heritage who had renounced his allegiance to the Unity Naval Command in favor of protecting Earth from Alien domination. “Admiral, I know your decryption codes are six months out of date. But can your ComChief figure a way to gain us access to the NavTrack computers of those two dead frigates?”
On the front screen dozens of black holes suddenly showed on the dimly shinning hull fragments. Tiny whisps of white air and water joined the massive gas balls emitted when each frigate was diced twice by Maureen’s neutral particle beam emitter. No ship fragment showed any kind of controlled movement. Now, anyone left alive in a vacsuit would join those who had died under the first barrage.
Hideyoshi glanced aside at a repeater screen image that showed him Jack’s ventilation of the ship fragments. He nodded abruptly, then turned to Jack. The man’s clean-shaven face showed resolute determination. “It will be done. We will find a way to decrypt the access codes. Recall that the Bismarck is a heavy cruiser. Our Library computer retains the codes, and code variations, from twenty years of cruising for the Unity.” The man blinked dark eyes, then lifted one black eyebrow. “What about the grav-pull drives on the ship fragments? Do we salvage them?”
Jack smiled. “Yes, please. Your Lander Rudyard Kipling is roomy enough to take onboard the two drives. Plus their control panels. Will be interesting to see how their grav-pull control software compares to that reverse-engineered by Max.”
“Captain Jack!” called Elaine. “We have twenty inbound grav-pulse drive ships! Coming in from Mars, Pluto, Europa, Encelades and other parts of Sol system. They . . .” she looked down at her Sensors panel. “Their origin points match our last records of Belter and Mars ships doing system patrol duty. They’re ours.” Within the bubble helmet she wore her long brown hair looked sweaty under her headband. But Elaine’s amber eyes showed relief.
He nodded slowly, mind spinning with multiple schemes on what to do next. “Thank you, Pilot. ComChief, send a Fleet Activation signal to every ship with a neutrino pedestal. Tell them to rendezvous here at Mathilde. We have a fleet battle conference to set up.”
“Transmitting,” called young Denise from behind Jack.
He heard her whispering into the pickup for the modulated neutrino pedestal that Max had salavaged from a Hackmot Alien ship. He also heard the sighs of relief from Blodwen, Archibald and Nikola at the cessation of active combat. If only his heart would stop hammering faster than he could think. And he needed water. Reaching down he grabbed a water tube, stuck its nipple against the intake tube of his helmet ring, took the ring’s tube in his mouth and sucked long and hard.
“Maureen!” he called to the holo of the woman with short black curls, hair fine wrinkles on her narrow face and a rad-tan like all Belters who’d grown up wearing a clear helmet atop their vacsuit. “Get the hell up here. I need current fleet status info from you. Plus your sneakiness!”
“Smart mouth youngling,” she muttered from the holo. “Heading up the Spine.”
“Fleet Captain Jack,” called Hideyoshi from the front screen. Whose image now showed side by side with that of stocky Gareth, captain of the second Belter fleet and the current romancer of Maureen, their Belfast granny. “What do you plan for Earth?”
What indeed? “Well, I’m not going to hit them with asteroid strikes. Those nine billion people are enslaved by the Cooperative Consensus of the Communitarian Unity. But there are still riots going on from our broadcast of their last Dictat’s effort to put Sol under the control of social carnivore Aliens. And while the Unity Naval Command is clearly functional, I suspect there are some remnants of old nationalism that may welcome the chance to reassert local control. Maybe even the United States portion of the North American Cooperative.” He nodded to vacsuited Maureen as the woman entered from the Spine hallway and sat in her Combat station seat. The woman immediately began bringing up combat simulation holos that she had previously programmed. In her spare time. Jack refrained from grinning at the woman’s obsession with space combat maneuvers. That obsession had served them well during their recent interstellar roaming. “Admiral, I’m open to suggestions from every ship captain. Which makes for thirty voices at our conference. But . . . I think it wise to destroy all space launch sites on Earth. And to pay a deadly visit to the Unity Congress in Geneva and the Unity Civil Bureaucracy in Brussels. Beyond those steps, I’m open to everyone’s ideas.”
The admiral showed his usual restraint, allowing no emotion to show on his face. And rarely in his voice. “Reasonable. This violation of the vote by the Unity Congress to give up any effort to control Sol system must be punished severely.”
“I say kill them all!” growled Maureen, one gloved hand slamming against the armrest of her seat.
Jack smiled. The bloodthirstyness of the woman who’d known his Grandfather Ephraim during the First Belter Rebellion in 2072 was unchanged even now, twenty-six years later. “Good Maureen, your tactical advice is always welcome. As it will be at our upcoming fleet battle conference. And afterwards on any ship I command.”
The trim, slim woman glanced at him from within her bubble helmet. She gave him a wintry smile. “I have no doubt you will be deadly enough, youngster. Not after the object lessons we gave the HikHikSot. Loved your fragmenting and deorbiting of their moon. Made for lovely fireworks.”
Jack looked away. Killing half a world’s population was not what he would consider as a ‘lovely’ event. But it had been necessary to implant in the deadly Aliens the operant conditioning lesson that they should always run away from any human or human ship. Instinctively. If they wished to live another day. He nodded at Hideyoshi and Gareth.
“My allies, thank you for your service today. Admiral, please bring your ship into the Dock Cavern. We need to use your Admiral’s Mess room for our meeting.” He looked to his Welsh ally. “Captain Gareth, please put your ship in orbit to guard against further Unity attacks. Then join us in your Lander.” He unlocked the restraint straps of his seat and stood up. He looked to the rear and caught the gray eyes of his gruff, honest and sardonic buddy. “Drive Engineer, please stay onboard and keep the Uhuru’s Battle Module on Auto-Track and Defend mode. The rest of you, join me in our Lander. We need to get back to the Dock Cavern to reassure the Citizens Council of Mathilde that we will protect our home no matter who or what attacks!”
“Will do!” Max said, though he looked disappointed at not being able to join their meal and conference in the Dock Cavern.
Jack’s lifemate Nikola stood up, her sandy brown eyebrows bunching up as she frowned. “How many will we have to kill this time?”
“Lots!” grunted Maureen over the vacsuit comlink that connected everyone aboard the Uhuru.
Red-haired Denise and blond Blodwen stood up to join him, Elaine and Nikola. To his right their chief physicist Archibald Wheeler was unsnapping his seat restraints. The man’s shock of unruly reddish-brown hair framed a worried look. “I hate the idea of attacking Earth.”
Jack led the way through the Pilot cabin’s hatch and into the long Spine hallway that ran the length of their ship. “Me too. Like all of us, I’ve got relatives still living on Earth. But we have to teach this Unity Congress a final lesson. They are not in control of Sol system! And they will never again run the lives of freedom-loving peoples.”
Once again his days of living a normal life had come to an end. It had been barely two weeks since they had returned from their interstellar jaunt to the star systems occupied by the Nuuthot, Mikmang, Nasen and HikHikSot Aliens. Now, it seemed they had to ‘tame’ Earth before they could head out to liberate Alien peoples ruled by social carnivore predator Aliens. Jack needed allies to join his revolt against an ancient galactic system that said only predators could travel star-to-star, with conquered ‘herbivore’ peoples becoming slaves and tasty meals for those interstellar predators. He grit his teeth. Tame Earth he would!