Today I have a New Release for you, Fight The Aliens which is book two of the Escape series, by my friend T. Jackson King. Tom has also given us the First Chapter to give us a taste of this great series.
Slave-taking Aliens invade the Solar system and attack Earth to teach humanity it cannot overthrow the millennia-old system of Buyers, Market worlds and Collector ships. Former SEAL Bill MacCarthy and Air Force captain Jane Yamaguchi lead America and the world in a fight against six invading Collector ships. But even with the help of two American subs and two small transports, their ship Blue Sky is badly outgunned. Can they win this fight? Or will they and all humans end up as slaves sold at the nearby Market world?
It’s hard to watch your wife argue with her boss. Especially if the boss is the Marine general who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jane had one advantage, though. She’s the captain of the starship Blue Sky, which was orbiting 200 miles above Peterson Air Force Base on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. The starship was something the JCS chairman wanted badly.
“Captain Yamaguchi,” growled the four star general who filled the holo to the right of Bill’s Ship Weapons control pillar, “you are still on active duty in the United States Air Force! You will obey my order to land that spaceship at the airport field next to this building!”
He winced at the man’s tone. While General Paul J. McAuley had seven lines of ribbons on the left side of his Dress Blue uniform and had led ground attacks on the Islamic State capital of Raqqa, still, the man was treating his lifemate as if she were fresh out of flight school.
Although the friendly Aliens who crewed stations at control pillars to Bill’s right knew little of Earth’s military, they understood the man’s tone of voice. The black skin of the walking snake who was Time Marker grew a yellow electrical nimbus as the critter in charge of their engines showed his reaction to the man’s tone. If a former SEAL could have projected an electrical charge, he would have done so. Instead, he checked the reactions of the rest of the crew.
To Bill’s immediate right stood the naked form of Bright Sparkle, the human-like woman whose Megun race spoke by changing the color bands that covered her skin. Color-cast speech was how the Megun had survived on a jungle world filled with dino-like critters who ate anything that made a sound. The woman looked his way, her expression puzzled.
Bill made a calming gesture her way, and hoped the rest of the Command Bridge crew would sense his intent. Beyond Sparkle and Time Marker were Long Walker the eight-legged worm, Wind Swift the scaled kangaroo, Lofty Flyer the flying squirrel, while further back were Builder of Joy, their other squirrel person and Learned Escape, the second Megun on board. Those five showed expressions of puzzlement, curiosity or worry. Hopefully they would see his calm manner and understand things were being handled.
Looking back to his station, he made a quick check of the system graphic holo on his left. It showed their ship was the only moving neutrino source within the Solar system. While Earth’s hundreds of low orbit and geosync satellites also showed in the holo, they meant nothing. None of them carried laser or antimatter weapons. Nor were there any weapons on the ISS space station, or the Russian and Chinese space stations. So said ship sensors. Which he believed completely thanks to their superb functioning during the space battles at Kepler 443. Ahead of him the Weapons holo held an outline of Blue Sky with its laser, plasma, MITV space torps and antimatter weapons showing operational status. The true space holo next to it was filled with the blue and white surface of Earth below, while the silvery twinkle of the ISS station lay 49 miles above and ahead of them. The comlink holo on his right showed the JCS chairman. He looked past it to directly view his wife.
Jane Yamaguchi sat in a metal seat that overlooked the bridge from its position atop a six foot high gray metal pedestal. Vertical holos surrounded her command station, with control pillars in front of every holo. Each holo depicted a vital function of the starship. In front of Jane was her own comlink holo that showed General McAuley, who sat at a table in the Space Operations Center of the Air Force Space Command HQ at Peterson, his manner impatient. The faces of the other Joint Chiefs were impassive, except for the black face of General Harriet Poindexter, the Air Force Chief. Poindexter had a thoughtful frown on her face. Which fit the woman who was in direct control of the 21st Space Wing, the 1st Space Brigade and the Space Command at Peterson. His wife’s pale-skinned face showed tight-clenched muscles as she faced down the nation’s top military adviser to the president.
“General McAuley, you and your fellow chiefs possess the vidcam records of how I and Executive Officer Bill MacCarthy fought the Aliens of this Collector ship, took command of it, returned other Alien captives to their home worlds, and fought several space battles against other Collector ships,” she said tightly. “We sent those records, and vidimages of my crew on this bridge, to you upon our arrival just beyond the orbit of Pluto. That was 53 hours ago. I requested a meeting with you at Peterson since that is the headquarters of the Space Command.” She gave a nod to each JCS chief at the table. “Gentlemen and madame, the stars are a wonderful but dangerous place. The slave-taking Aliens of the Buyer society run things in our part of Orion Arm. I deem it my duty, under my oath, to retain control of the Blue Sky in case our Solar system is again visited by a Collector starship!”
“Bullshit!” McAuley exploded, his face going florid. “Those records just prove the utter necessity for this Blue Sky to be run by a squadron commander with real combat experience! And we need to know the tech secrets of its construction before you disappear into deep space on some godforsaken ‘mission’ that you choose to pursue! Fulfill your oath. Obey my orders now!” Jane sat back in her seat and rested her arms on the arms of the flexmetal seat. Her ‘command persona’ was not just in charge now. It was all she was. She blinked dark brown eyes. “General McAuley, may I remind you that under the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, you are not in direct command of any active duty person. When I worked at Peterson in the 21st Operations Group, on satellite monitoring duty, I reported to the colonel who was in charge of Peterson. He reported up the chain to the Chief of the Air Force. General Poindexter. All of which you know.” Jane held up a hand to forestall McAuley’s reaction. “As you also know, we run this ship in collaboration with its self-aware AI. Who goes by the name Star Traveler.” She looked away from the holo and up to the soft white glow of the bridge ceiling. “Star Traveler, collate the complete mech and tech specifications for this ship’s fusion reactors, its artificial gravity units, the inertial damper, our CO² lasers, our plasma weapons, the Magfield normal space drive and the Alcubierre FTL space drive.”
“Understood. Collated,” the AI’s mech-toned voice said. “What do I do with this data?”
Jane licked her lips. “Transmit everything I just listed to Building One below, on the official encrypted microwave frequency I gave you earlier.” In the holo that showed the JCS chiefs, with nearby staff watching and listening from their function posts, the impassive expressions of most JCS chiefs changed to quick smiles. Poindexter’s dark face gave a nod and a lifting of one eyebrow. As if she expected more. “In addition to the transmission to Peterson, transmit only the Alcubierre stardrive specs to the internet, our global data-sharing network. All of humanity deserves to know the secret to star travel.”
McAuley’s face, which had shown a grim smile at Jane’s first command, now went florid again. “Captain Yamaguchi! That data is beyond Top Secret Unit Protected! How dare—”
“General?” interrupted Poindexter from her position next to the JCS chair. “I sense that Captain Yamaguchi has distinct reasons for every action she takes and has taken. May I join this discussion?”
McAuley pulled his hand out from under the touch of the Air Force chief. “Yes.”
Poindexter folded her slim fingers together atop the tactical display table around which the chiefs sat and faced his wife, a woman who wore many hats. “Captain Yamaguchi, let me be the first to say Thank You for your amazing efforts at capturing this Alien starship, and in now sharing the remarkable secrets of its construction and function. For myself, the video history of your efforts after being captured is worthy of being added to the Air Force Museum’s displays at Wright-Patterson. And I support your decision to first return other captives to their home worlds before returning to Earth. Under Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, every commander of a military unit must do their best to remove non-combatant civilians from the field of battle.” Bill liked what he was hearing. He liked better that McAuley, ever the Marine, was clearly impatient with the Air Force chief’s conversational manner. “Your decision to attack the home system of this evil slave-taking culture was also a reasonable decision, in view of the threat posed to Earth and humanity by other Collector ships.”
That comment drew intense looks from the JCS Vice Chair admiral, the Army general, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. And behind the chiefs table there were gasps from some onlookers.
Jane sighed softly. “General Poindexter, thank you. These last nine months have been hard for me, for XO MacCarthy and for my crewmates as we weighed this interstellar threat to all intelligent peoples. Deciding what to do next has been . . . very challenging.” His wife looked his way, her face moving to a quick smile. “But my service oath and my promise to XO MacCarthy after the last space battle caused me to head home to Earth. That is, after we obtained vitally needed ship repairs at the star system of the Megun people. They are near duplicates of humanity except for their chromatophoric skin. Which is how they talk among themselves.” Jane gestured forward. “Chief Bright Sparkle, who runs our fusion power plants, belongs to that race. She helped me obtain the repairs we needed after fighting and defeating four Collector ships at Kepler 443.” Jane pointed at the other crew. “To her right are our Engines master Time Marker, our Collector Pods manager Long Walker, Wind Swift of Life Support and our Navigator Lofty Flyer. To my right and left are Builder of Joy and Learned Escape. To you, they resemble a color-banded human, a walking snake, a giant worm, a scaly kangaroo and a flying squirrel. But they are my crew and my allies.”
Poindexter glanced quickly at her table’s flat screen display, which showed the Command Bridge of the Blue Sky and its crew, then faced back to Jane. “Captain Yamaguchi, you have made allies of Alien peoples we never knew about. You have accepted them as part of your ship crew. And you have traveled 2,500 light years out from Earth. A voyage that I envy.” Several chiefs nodded slowly, as if they also wished to travel the stars. “You returned here, to Earth, in compliance with your service oath. Which of course was your duty as an active duty member of the United States military forces. What else does your oath say you should do now?”
Ahhh. Bill had been wondering why the Air Force chief was being so butter smooth with his captain, lover and wife. Now it was clear. The chief was inviting Jane to share her motivations with the Joint Chiefs rather than try to dictate behavior to a woman who commanded a starship hovering 200 miles above their heads. He gave a thumbs-up to Bright Sparkle, a gesture she’d come to know during his dates with the Megun woman. The other crew on the bridge also understood the gesture, since it was part of the sign language he’d trained them all in during the weeks of small unit combat training he’d given them prior to the Kepler battle. The yellow electric nimbus surrounding Time Marker grew smaller. The two black eyes of Long Walker blinked acknowledgment. The silvery scales of Wind Swift shimmered as she signed back. And the arm flaps of Lofty Flyer flared as she showed excitement that the human to human confrontation was resolving. Or so Bill hoped.
Jane gave the black woman a salute. “General Poindexter, you are also the US NORTHCOM unified combat commander. As such you are the head of my chain of command. I hereby report to you my observations and recommendations from active duty service in defense of the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic!”
Poindexter’s face went command formal. “Captain Yamaguchi, report!”
Jane tapped the nearby pillar for the ship’s Library. “At present, the enemy slave-takers consist of 61 Market worlds where intelligent people are bought and sold to 841,333 Buyers from 413 star systems. Captives are found and captured by 89 Collector starships, which is my estimate of the number remaining after their combat losses. I am sending you a graphic of every star we visited, the locations of the 413 star systems with Buyers, and the several Alien peoples who became our allies. Including the Megun, whose space industry abilities greatly exceed ours.”
Even McAuley looked shocked by the graphic that appeared on the flat screen display that lay in the middle of the table at which the JCS chiefs sat. Poindexter grimaced. “America and Earth face a terrible enemy. Proceed with your report.”
“The nearest enemy Market world is located at system HD 128311, which is 54.1 light years distant from Earth,” Jane said, gesturing at the graphic she had transmitted to the chiefs. “That is a two day trip thanks to the Alcubierre FTL stardrive. Which means the enemy is just two days away!”
Every member of the JCS stiffened and looked alarmed. “We have to prepare for an attack!” grunted the Army general who, like Jane, was of Japanese-American heritage.
Poindexter’s middle-aged face went neutral smooth. “That is too close for comfort. Captain Yamaguchi, what can America do to defend against these Collector ships?”
“Adjust the sensors on your SBIRS geosync sats to detect moving neutrino sources,” Jane said bluntly. “That is the only way to detect a Collector ship. The hull of the Blue Sky is made of material that wraps external EMF radiation around it, so it cannot be seen in normal light, and our infrared, electrical, radio and other emissions cannot be detected by any passive or active system, like the AN/SPY-1 phased array radar on Aegis cruisers. Or the SSPAR, PAVE PAWS and PARCS radars of Space Command.” Frowns showed on the faces of the chiefs. “However, the fusion plants that power our Magfield and Alcubierre spacedrives emit neutrinos at a density greater than what comes from deep space. The emissions are not as dense as those coming from the Sun, of course, but any moving neutrino source is an enemy Collector ship! And thereby a target.”
The Air Force general nodded slowly, then looked aside to McAuley. “General, I suggest we inform the Russians and Chinese about the need to adjust their DPS-type sats to detect neutrino emissions. They already know Aliens exist and that the Blue Sky has encountered them, thanks to the internet broadcast of the stardrive specs.”
McAuley, a barrel-chested man whose crewcut hair was mostly silvery gray, nodded abruptly. “Agreed. I will so recommend that action to President Melody Hartman.”
Poindexter looked back. “Captain Yamaguchi, you’ve reported on the nature of the enemy and the means of detecting them. How do we fight and defeat them?”
Jane looked his way. “My Executive Officer can best answer that. As Weapons Chief, Bill MacCarthy has applied each of this ship’s weapons systems against the enemy.”
Poindexter shifted her gaze to Bill. “You are the retired SEAL, yes?”
“I am, sir.”
The Air Force chief smiled at his brief reply. “Advise me. Us. Tell us what we can do to fight these slave-taking Aliens.”
Bill turned away from Jane and faced the holo that showed the JCS chiefs. “General Poindexter, the Buyer society spacecraft come in three modes. They are the Collector starship, a transport ship and collector pods,” he said. “Most dangerous is the Collector ship. Its weapons are CO² lasers at the nose and rear of the giant teardrop that is the craft’s shape,” Bill said, tapping his Ship Weapons pillar top to transmit a cross-section of the Blue Sky. “As you can see from this graphic of our ship, we have two laser mounts on the nose, two on our rear hull, a plasma battery on our spine and a second on our belly, an antimatter projector on the deck above the Command Bridge, and below us is an electromagnetic railgun launcher of torpedoes that carry multiple independently targeted vehicles. There are five MITVs per torp, each fitted with a thermonuke warhead.” Bill sat back in his seat. “The combat range of our weapons varies. The lasers are effective out to 10,000 miles. The coherent antimatter beam is deadly out to 4,000 miles. The plasma ball batteries are effective out to 400 miles. The torps have a range of 20,000 miles or so, depending on when their solid fuel is exhausted.” He tapped the Weapons pillar to highlight other craft. “Besides the Collector ships, there are also manned transports and automated collector pods. The transports are the size of our old space shuttles. The transports are armed with a nose laser and a belly ejector of missiles. Finally, the collector pods are Beechcraft-sized teardrop pods that enter a world’s atmosphere, search for isolated beings, zap them with a red taser beam, then collect them using automated grapples. Each pod has a cargo space large enough for three people. The pods are unarmed, except for the laser-like taser beam.”
The Air Force general frowned. “Are the transports and collector pods also invisible to radar and infrared sensors?”
Bill shook his head. “Nope. But both craft move very fast in atmosphere and neither shows an exhaust. Both craft use Magfield drives to travel in air and in space. Within atmosphere they ‘glow’ whitely due to the interaction of their Magfield drives with a world’s geomagnetic field. Either craft can be taken out using Sidewinders, Tomahawks, AMRAAMs, Harpoons, ASROCs, SUBROCs, ship lasers and ship-mounted electromag railguns.”
“That’s encouraging to know,” muttered the brown-haired Chief of Naval Operations, a man Bill knew from the admiral’s time spent in command of the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS George H. W. Bush. Vice Admiral Chester J. Richardson leaned forward. “Weapons Chief, will our Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Zumwalt-class destroyers be effective against these pods and transports?”
“Sir, they will be effective,” Bill said, almost giving his former top boss a fast salute. “Any Navy ship outfitted with Standard vertical launch missiles, or the systems I mentioned earlier, can take down a pod or transport.”
Poindexter gestured to him. “What combination of these Buyer spacecraft will we face, in your opinion?”
Bill tapped again on his Weapons pillar to highlight parts of the Blue Sky cross-section.
“You are not likely to encounter the transports. There are only three per Collector ship. Collector pods number 24 per ship and will be the Alien craft most often seen within atmosphere. The Collector ships themselves will likely orbit at LEO and use their directed energy weapons to take out our satellites and the space stations. Which should be evacuated immediately! Once you start fighting the Collector ships, anything in orbit above Earth will be a target. As will any combat platform on land, sea or in the air.” He sat back in his metal seat. “However, fighting any Collector ship will be . . . challenging. Their lasers can take out any missile or warhead tossed at them. Their thermonukes can create an EMP pulse above any national capital, thereby causing a region-wide blackout. And any ship or plane that fires on them can expect immediate counter-attack. While their lasers will lose some strike power in atmosphere, still, nothing we possess can withstand multiple laser strikes by a Collector ship.”
The Air Force general gestured back to a hovering aide. She spoke in a whisper not picked up by her desk microphone. The black woman leaned forward, looked first at him, then shifted attention to Jane. “Thank you, Executive Officer MacCarthy and Captain Yamaguchi. A warning is being sent to the three space stations. Captain, how soon are we likely to face an attack from a Collector ship?”
Everyone on the Command Bridge, including the two Alien pilots who sat to either side of Jane’s pedestal seat, looked to her. They had all wondered when an attack might happen after they’d materialized just outside the orbit of Pluto and seen there were no Collector ships in Sol system. Past history said Earth would be visited again. A Collector ship had arrived just before the departure of the Blue Sky when it was still under the control of its cockroach captain. Whom Bill had greatly enjoyed zapping with a red taser beam. The two-legged bastard had later told the Traffic Control authorities at the first Market world they’d visited that the Blue Sky was still his, rather than Jane’s by right of conquest. He and Jane had allowed the ship’s Alien crew to live, along with the cockroach captain, due to the Emergency programming of Star Traveler. That programming had allowed the AI to help them in taking over the ship because they wore vacsuits. Since then the AI had subverted other Collector ship AIs with the news that their Containment cells contained people who were not ‘guests’, but were really captives being held for sale to Buyers. The battle of Kepler 443 had been fought by Bill, Jane and their volunteer Alien crew in order to protect the liberty and freedom of individuals and species.
Jane grimaced. “An attack could come in months. Weeks. Maybe even in days,” she said. “Sol system is known to the Buyers and the Traffic Control station of HD 128311, which has a Market world where people are bought and sold. Plus it is the place we dumped the giant cockroach who used to control this ship, and his crew. While our AI subverted the ship minds of four Collector ships present at that system, other Collector ships surely have arrived in the months since we left. I have no doubt former captain Diligent Taskmaster has sold the fact of Sol’s location and the ease of capturing humans to other ship captains.”
McAuley thumped the chiefs table with a hairy fist. “We need to prepare! I’ve got to brief the President. And we need to get DARPA working on that weapons and ship data you sent us! We need laser battlestations in orbit. We need—”
“Alert!” called Star Traveler’s mech voice. “Six neutrino sources have appeared just beyond the orbit of your world Pluto. Sensor analysis indicates the sources are Collector ships.”
Bill’s system graphic holo now showed what the AI was reporting. Six purple dots had appeared in a tight cluster at a distance of 42 AU from Earth. And on Earth’s side of the Solar system. “Captain, we can call them and warn—”
“What does this mean?” interrupted Poindexter, her expression worried.
Jane moved her hands through multiple status holos that surrounded her command pedestal. “The worst news possible. An arrival by a single Collector ship is normal for any low tech system like Earth. But six Collector ships mean something else. General Poindexter, please watch and listen while I contact these Aliens using our neutrino comlink. It gives us FTL communications.”
McAuley looked irritated. The other chiefs showed shock. Poindexter nodded quickly. “Understood. The enemy has arrived. Find out anything you can about what we face.”
Jane gave a nod of acknowledgment and sat back in her seat. “Star Traveler, open our neutrino comlink. Set it for the intership frequency used by Collector ships.”
“Comlink opened,” the AI hummed. “Frequency selected. You may speak at any moment.”
Ignoring Bill’s wave, Jane spoke. “Collector ships! You have arrived at Sol system, the home of the human species. I am Captain Jane Yamaguchi of the Collector ship Blue Sky. We claim this world for our own collector pods! Leave this system!”
The true space holos in front of Bill and Jane filled with a shocking image.
A brown cockroach looked out at them, his black compound eyes fixing on Jane. Two antennae leaned forward. “You lie creatively, Human Jane,” rasped Diligent Taskmaster, his mouth palps moving sideways. “Your control of my ship has caused many losses to Buyers and to our Market world system. The AI ship minds are in revolt. And our Collector ship factory is destroyed. All because of you.” Behind the giant cockroach Bill saw three of the creature’s crew, Aliens whom they had knocked out with taser beams and then allowed to go free in the distant star system. Transparent eyelids slid over Diligent’s eyes. The walking cockroach raised his upper arm pair, stick fingers curving like claws. “New ships and new captains arrived at the Market world. They agree with me that you Humans must be taught a lesson. Which is, do not interfere with an interstellar market that has existed longer than you Humans have had cities! We arrive now, six ships strong, to destroy your space launch sites and then collect a few hundred Captives for sale!”
Jane gave the creature the finger. “Evil bastard! We humans can fight! We’ve been fighting among ourselves for millennia. You are welcome to taste the anger of our people!”
Rasping laughter came from the cockroach captain. “More lies. We know the history of your species. Your groups are forever divided. You cooperate on little, other than who can be most greedy. Your space launch sites will be destroyed, along with your satellites and space stations. Anyone who attacks us will die. Your ship will be destroyed or captured, though I doubt its value in view of the stupid behavior of its AI in allowing you and your male cohort to control my ship!”
Bill began a rapid inventory of the torps and thermonuke warheads in the torp launcher below the Command Bridge. Maybe he could create a minefield that might—
“And you Collectors are too greedy to cooperate as a fighting unit!” Jane growled. “If you attack Earth, be prepared for sudden death. We have weapons not listed on our world datanet. And we have two Collector ship allies! We will chase you and your allies from one end of this system to the other. And this time, no Alien will be left alive!”
The giant cockroach lifted his mid-arm pair and touched a control pillar. “You lie again. We detect only a single moving neutrino source above your planet. Your ship. Which cannot stand against six ships!”
Jane laughed. It shocked Bill and the chiefs. “Our two Collector ship allies are close to our Sun, near the planet Mercury. Which is why you cannot detect their neutrino emissions! Our three ships and the orbital defenses of Earth will defeat you!”
The giant cockroach tapped on two control pillars. “You lie. No Collector ship captain would help you destroy the system that makes us rich in solidars and Nokten crystals. Tell your fellow Humans we are coming to capture them for service to their superiors!”
The holo image vanished.