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Canon Index




 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 once more.  

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 Situations Officer.  

“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 Extrigent unprotected. 

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 Haizea.  

“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 the destroyer.

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 confused.” 

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 Ben3.”  

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 minimum.” 

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.


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