Chapter 7

Rear Admiral Pearson exchanged glances with the dark-haired man sitting across from him. Scott had tried twice to add meaningful suggestions to the operational planning meeting, only to be openly mocked by the vice admiral. Admiral Hood was like a few other commanders Scott had contended with before--tough and filled with a sense of his own superiority. But that was a quality often required for the job. It was true that Scott had much to learn about this century and its new technology, but he also brought with him many seasons of battle experience, experience that allowed him to see strategic opportunity in almost any engagement with the enemy.

“…So with the addition of the twelve new heavy cruisers and six new war cruisers from the Theron sector, that brings our cruiser strength up to eighty-five percent of what your order of battle had called for,” Commodore Dougherty said crisply as he concluded his briefing on ship reinforcements. He paused for questions from the admiral’s staff, but there were none, so he continued. A new image showing the crew strengths appeared on their monitors.

“In addition to the increase in tonnage, we have also replaced seventy-two percent of our crew losses with recruits from outposts and garrisons, but retraining will be necessary for many, since most of them have no shipboard combat experience. The remaining crew slots have been made up with conscripts from various worlds in this sector.”

The commodore continued his brief with supply and logistics information. When he finished his brief and sat down, Admiral Hood shook his head at the numbers and turned to his staff.

“Gentlemen, we have a grisly task ahead of us. The Draul have been heavily reinforced in this sector, and these new ships represent ninety percent of our reserve. We have scraped up every ship that can be spared, in some cases taking every last picket and defense cruiser from entire star clusters.”

The admiral paused to let his staff take that in. Scott had not previously realized just how desperate their war with the Draul really was.

“Our next attack will be against positions that have also been heavily reinforced. While we have made probing attacks against their rimward fleets, the time has come for a more direct assault against their base of operations. Our scouts have reported that it is built directly atop the rift itself. General Geron has instructed us to use whatever force is necessary to reach that base. Make no mistake--” he paused to scan their faces “--we know from past encounters what their ships can do, so I expect we will take very high losses to achieve our objective, but we must achieve it. He who controls the rift will dictate the terms of the war.”

He turned to regard Scott. “Rear Admiral Pearson, I will expect you to work with the cruiser task group to integrate the new ships into our fleet structure. Work them up fast. I want to see the results of the formation and weapons drills in four days. That is all the time you will have before we begin our assault.”

Scott resented being given the task of overseeing new crew integrations instead of helping with operations planning, but in a grudging way it made sense. In spite of the high rank Geron had afforded him, he really needed to develop a sense of what these ships could do in battle. After all, the ships of the battle line that he had commanded before were now relics by comparison.

The initial ops planning would be straightforward enough, and he had a small staff that could keep him up on the details of formations and munitions needed. He finally resolved to simply remain silent and allow the admiral to lead his staff down the well-worn road of strategic dispositions that could most accurately be described as a brute force assault.

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