Tales of the Black Admiral
Group Captain Rhulson was getting his ass handed to him. Two of
the destroyers under his immediate command now sat uselessly to
the side watching, destroyed within the guidelines of the
simulation. Nazyless could only guess what thoughts and
contingencies must be racing through the mind of the young
commander, behind those keen grey eyes. With a professional calm,
he ordered the Bayess, last of his three destroyers, to take point
and called for the remainder of his command group to fade back
The simulated invasion of the Bjaki Balinino system was going
excellently, so far as the invasion side was concerned. Nazyless
remarked to himself that it wasn’t entirely a fair demonstration
of Bjaki tactics given that Rhulson was the one who laid out the
ground rules. The invasion forces were larger and better equipped.
They were to use tactics modeled on those of both the Bjaki
Federation and the Makkuth while the defenders, commanded by Group
Captain Cyarkos Rhulson, would use standard Bjaki tactics during
the first of two simulated battles. During a second simulated
invasion, the relative fleet strengths would remain the same but
the computer simulation software would upgrade a number of key
systems on the defenders’ ships and Rhulson would be free to
demonstrate a number of maneuvers of his own devising.
“Captain, the last of Red Flight has landed,” called out the
Flight Control Officer. “All fighter and bomber wings are now
docked and are being locked down as destroyed.” Nazyless took a
few notes to himself regarding the simulation, the words flashing
by on the tiny holo screen hanging in front of his right eye. He
watched as Rhulson walked the bridge. Where most commanders would
sit, Rhulson methodically paced from crew station to station,
rubbing at his wide, clean shaven chin and staring pointedly at
nothing. He seemed somehow unfocused, almost unaware of his
immediate surroundings. Nazyless could understand the stories that
said that, in combat, this man spent most of his time listening to
the advice of angels.
There was no surprise then, at least to Nazyless, that the fleet
led by the vocal young Group Captain, under a scenario of his own
devising, would exactly demonstrate his passionate beliefs.
Rhulson was politically both active and vocal, saying the Bjaki
Aegis was too lightly equipped and lacked the structure and
training that would see them through any sort of serious conflicts
with potential threats like that of the Makkuth. Rhulson made bold
contentions that Federation tactics and combat protocols were
totally predictable and that any commander with a knowledge of
them could completely manipulate any Bjaki force. Nazyless could
see many of Rhulson’s points and was himself particularly put off
by the rampant nepotism that stacked the ranks and undermined the
accountability of the Bjaki Federation. He was, however,
confident that the scale of this display would cost Rhulson
credibility in the long run. Too much expense and extravagance to
demonstrate a position that was so pointedly made by the Group
Captain and so pointedly ignored by the leaders of the Federation.
Rhulson had pulled every string to set up this little
demonstration, stocked each ship for a full scale military
conflict, and hand-crewed his command group. He had even
hand-picked the writers and reporters that would critique his
little extravaganza, which is what put Nazyless Brey in this chair
on the bridge of Rhulson’s command cruiser, the Lady Sophia.
Aspirant Khatijah leaned over Nazyless’ shoulder as he gestured
words in the air, scowling slightly as if she could almost read
them as they flashed by on the tiny holo-screen hanging in front
of his right eye. She seemed young and ambitious to Nazyless,
definitely career military rather than appointed due to the
influence of a rich uncle as so many of the young Aegis officers
seemed to be. She would have been pretty if those deep brown eyes
were slightly less hard or if her blondish hair was pulled back a
little less tightly. Or if she’d stop glaring over his shoulder
while he was trying to write. As a member of the Aegis Proximate,
the Aspirant was here to keep him safe and keep him in control
while he was a guest on the Lady Sophia, not to impose any sort of
censorship on his writing. Besides, Rhulson himself had invited
him to critique the simulation directly from the bridge so she
could essentially get stuffed if she didn’t like what he was
writing. Besides, he had been scrutinized by far more hostile
types than her in his years as a military writer.
He watched the data and pictures sift by on his holo-screen as a
trio of invading ships suddenly broke off the edge of the main
force and began closing on Rhulson’s command group.
Rhulson’s eyes locked with the Watch Quartermaster who would relay
his commands. “Destroyer to intercept destroyer,” called out
Rhulson, like he was calling out the moves of so many chess
pieces. “Arsenal, take out that gunship. Proximate Guard stand
ready for boarding in case the assault ship makes it through.
Helmsman Condonoble, continue to fade us back. We still need more
distance from the main force.”
“Relaying, sir”, called back Watch Quartermaster Berrond, her
slender Bjaki fingers slashing through the air in front of her as
she relayed the Captain’s orders through the comm system. Nazyless
had always found intense combat on starships to be darkly amusing,
life and death hanging on a bunch of people waving their hands in
the air like idiots. Truthfully, the TacScan was an exceptionally
complicated system involving dedicated bio-computers and a network
of redundant sensors that constantly interpreted and responded to
the signed commands of the crew. If the TacScan failed and the
crew had to revert back to hard controls and view screens, the
efficiency of a ship fell by orders of magnitude.
With a few quick gestures, Nazyless popped up a long visual where
he could observe a target-designated view of the three ships
closing on the remnants of Rhulson’s command group. The Bayess,
already on point, swung about to head off its sister destroyer
Victorious. Dozens of tiny yellow points appeared on Nazyless’
holo-screen, arcing between the two destroyers. Both ships were
unleashing volleys of missiles at one another.
As the destroyers tangled, the gunship Drake and the assault ship
Extrigent closed on the command group. Nazyless watched with
interest as his holo-screen indicated an energy surge in the
Sculpture, the Punchdagger class Arsenal protecting Rhulson’s
Command Cruiser. The Punchdagger was practically designed around
two massive Behemoth railguns, a new and assumedly devastating
weapon produced by Azatlath Advanced Construction and acquired to
help bolster the firepower of the Federation fleet. Nazyless was
quite interested in seeing their effectiveness, even though it
would only be in a simulation.
The Sculpture discharged the empty railguns and the bio-computers
on each of the ships in the simulation began exchanging
information through tightly-coupled tachyon beams. Processing the
trajectories and energy levels, they all agreed the cannons were
devastating. The computers on the gunship responded to the hit of
two massive, ultra-high-speed projectiles, shutting off the ship’s
weapon systems, engines, and shields. The grav drive simulated the
impact, spinning the gunship wildly. A single volley had
registered as utter obliteration of the small ship. Nazyless
nodded slightly, impressed, journaling the impressive effect of
the railgun and noting a few factors he would want to follow up on
later to evaluate the accuracy of the simulation.
“Specialist Haizea, evaluate” Rhulson barked to his senior
“Doing good, sir,” came the response from the slightly disheveled
officer with the thinning hair and darting eyes. “Eight minutes
from the main force, top speed. Tight with the Sculpture, Captain
Nawra reports ready. Commander Siran is on direct intercept in the
Extrigent, two minutes to boarding range and calling her intent to
board. Nearest Aegis forces are the Victorious and Bayess, three
minutes, and they’re beating the Chitl out of each other... Dammit!
The Victorious just broke off from the Bayess, they’re headed
right at us.”
Nazyless scowled and signed to lock his view on the Victorious. It
was unthinkable that it would break off conflict with the Bayess
to intercept them, leaving the rear of both themselves and the
The audio comm clicked on in Nazyless’ ear. “This is the
Victorious,” announced a giddy voice on the public channel, “we’re
going after the flagship!”
Nazyless’ shook his head as he waved down a few more notes. It was
precisely this sort of glory-seeking idiocy, brought on by
command-by-birthright rather than promotion, that Rhulson fought
to eliminate in the Aegis. Ignoring the fact that both the
Extrigent and Victorious now had hostiles on both sides, the
Victorious was looking to destroy precisely the sort of asset the
Extrigent was designed to capture.
“Negative, negative, Victorious,” the public channel crackled.
“Extrignet to board, repeat, the Extrigent will board.”
Nazyless sighed as he made more comments. They shouldn’t be
broadcasting intent like this over the public audio comm. The
Extrigent, at least, under the experienced Commander Tarine Siran,
should be broadcasting privately so everyone in the whole system
couldn’t hear their intent, obvious though it was. Nazyless had a
flash of insight that perhaps he had arranged the boarding of the
Lady Sophia by Rhulson’s old friend in the Extrigent but he
reserved judgment until he saw how this whole mess played out.
“Damn idiot!” Rhulson cursed. Surprisingly, the Captain didn’t
seem to like the way things were going suddenly. It was as if a
door was closing on a plan that Nazyless didn’t know about. “Comm,
order the Bayess to rejoin the main force, intercept the Regent.
Tightly coupled beams to the Sculpture and Extrigent, now! Same
comm to all hands on the Sophia.”
Things were getting more and more confusing to Nazyless. The
Extrigent was on the other side... granted, her commander was an
old friend of the Group Captain but what could he have to say to
her under these conditions? Perhaps they had arranged the
capture ahead of time?
“Tightly coupled, sir, comm open,” called out Situations Officer
“This is it, folks,” called out Rhulson, “it’s time for the real
thing. Bakhir, take out the shields on the Victorious. As soon as
their shields fall, high alert and live. Tarine, cripple that
bastard. Minimum casualties. All hands, prepare to end sim.”
Nazyless stiffened as the Group Captain commanded three ships out
of sim and into high combat alert. The young Proximate Aspirant
with the potential for cuteness laid a hand on Nazyless’ shoulder,
not forcefully but with an unyielding authority that overcame his
unconscious urge to stand up and do... something. Rhulson turned to
him with a lop-sided smile. “Take notes, Mr. Brey. This is history
you are about to witness.”
A small green blip on Nazyless’ holoscreen grew bright as the
Sculpture charged her massive railguns again. Massive, simulated
projectiles hit the Victorious front and side. Her onboard
computers shut down her shield systems and skewed her path wildly
to starboard. Flashes of light erupted around the rear of the
Victorious as a half dozen missiles... real missiles, now... fired
by the Extrigent exploded in and around her engines. The
Victorious heaved as armoured plates tore off, spinning into
space, and patches of metal fused and melted around the drives of
All of the comm channels erupted at once as every ship in the
fleet flooded the channels, issuing orders to subordinates, firing
questions and accusations, and generally trying to figure out what
was going on.
Rhulson cracked his small, quirky smile at Quartermaster Berrond.
“Confirm to the Bayess that they are to form up with Destroyer
Group Severance. Order them all to hit the attackers’ flagship.
Carrier Group Mitchem is to target those Troop Transports with the
Rindell. Make up some other stuff... keep them busy and keep them
Quartermaster Berrond smiled back a sharp, thin-lipped smile.
While her smile was subtle, her eyes shone with a fire rarely seen
these days within the ranks of the Bjaki Aegis. There was passion
in those grey eyes as she began rapidly and deliberately signing
orders through the fleet comm. Nazyless had met this woman several
years ago, before she had become a Commander. A young Aspirant in
the Situations chain, she had possessed an uncanny efficiency and
an ability to evaluate the needs of any situation. In a few short
years, she had made it not only to the rank of Commander but to
the roll of the Command Watch Quartermaster on the ship of Cyarkos
Rhulson. And if her order was to confuse and confound, Nazyless
felt nothing but sympathy for the rest of this fleet.
“Coordinates laid, Captain,” the Iliene Lee Helmsman stated.
“Power 100 reserved for skip warp, ready to engage.”
“Captain!” The Helmsman cut off his junior. “The Bayess is going
live and coming about. She’s not buying this Chitl!”
“Situations, tightly coupled beam to the Bayess. Command Protocol
The Situations Officer gestured briefly in the air and nodded
meaningfully at Rhulson. “It’s up.”
Rhulson hands flipped about in a complicated flurry.
The Situations officer smiled and winked at Rhulson. “The Bayess
just shut down, sir. Shields down, weapons down, reactors on
Rhulson smiled back his little smile. “Sometimes, Lannach, I
really like being the Group Captain.”
Nazyless flipped his view from ship to ship, watching the
Federation Aegis fall to pieces. It seemed that the Group Captain
was right about the ability to disrupt the fleet when subtle
wedges were driven into the right cracks. The conflict was drawn
out over an enormous area and the most distant ships were still
under simulation, just now starting to react to the events that
took several minutes to reach them even at the speed of light.
There was no coordination on either side, some commanders trying
to take the situation under their own control and others seemingly
lost without the guidance of experienced superiors.
Rhulson again addressed the Quartermaster who was still signing
orders to the fleet. “Stop that,
Deandrah. Tightly coupled to the Extrigent and Sculpture.”
He paused while the Quartermaster opened the private
communications channel. Rhulson, to the comm, said simply,
“Command Group Independence, evacuate.”
Like a freestyle ballet, the Extrigent and Lady Sophia wheeled
away from the confusion, the Sculpture following at a slight
distance as an unchallenged vanguard. The Victorious was a
functional wreck and it would be minutes before the Bayess would
override the Group Captain’s executive shutdown and regain control
of their starship. There was no one else to challenge Rhulson’s
group. Rhulson certainly knew how to make a point.
Nazyless had signed up a mid view of the three ships when the
Extrigent began to blur and stutter. Nazyless scowled in surprise,
then smiled. The Extrigent began to disappear and reappear,
stuttering forward erratically. At first he had been puzzled and
concerned at the remarkable way the simulation was going but now
he laughed out loud with the utter audacity of the Group Captain.
The bulky troop transport began to pull away from Rhulson’s
Command Carrier, stretching longer and thinner, taking on a slight
but disconcerting corkscrew bend. The Extrigent was going into
Skip Warp. They were stealing these ships.
He felt the Daggers as the Lady Sophia slipped silently into Skip
Warp, too. He hated the transition. Once the drive was fully
engaged, everything felt completely normal. But as the quantum and
gravitational fields formed around the ship and tore their little
chunk out of space-time, Nazyless always felt like he was being
rubbed with sharp little steel filings.
And then it was over. The Ryder drive had separated a small chunk
of reality and was hurtling it forward faster and faster. The
Extrigent sped ahead of them and the Sculpture was closing behind.
The rest of the fleet faded rapidly behind. Rhulson finally sat.
He glanced over at Nazyless, thin dark eyes shining. He raised an
eyebrow and Nazyless grinned back. Nazyless Brey could hardly wait
to see where they would end up.