Chapter 8

Rear Admiral Scott Pearson took his seat across from General Geron aboard Kraken. He was flanked by an honor guard of three marines. The marines were there to ensure Scott knew the gravity of the situation in which he found himself.

“I understand Admiral Hood is quite wroth,” Scott said as he took his seat.

“Considering you turned his entire battle plan on its head with your enveloping maneuver, I would say that is an understatement. You are a very obstreperous flag officer, Rear Admiral Pearson. I think he is even considering challenging you to a duel.”

Scott smirked at the thought of that. If Hood had his say, Scott would be pinned to a target in the ship’s shooting range.

“Before you say any more, understand that you did what I expected. You handled it in a rather egregious fashion, but you showed Hood that there is more than one way to take the fight to the Draul. Your strategy for taking the Shahar system was… interesting, let’s say.”

Scott shrugged. They had lost one heavy cruiser, and another war cruiser was severely disabled in the battle that had played out in the next star system. Those losses were extremely light compared to the losses Hood’s tactics would have called for. Admiral Hood had been prepared to give up half his ships to secure Shahar, which would have left him only a light task group to try to break into Libuscha.

Scott’s scratch-built ops plan had been to divide up the fleet and send one task group in to attack the Draul. When they had engaged the waiting Draul fleet, they took a page right from the Draul strategy; as the six Draul cruisers gave chase, the Terran fleet had retreated back toward the system’s primary, a cool, red, class-L dwarf star. The slower Draul ships were used to the Terrans trying to tear down their forward shields at close range, but were unable to bring sufficient fire to bear on the fleeing Terrans, who kept the range open with their superior speed. The Draul formation was not sufficiently prepared when the second half of Scott’s fleet dropped out of hyperspace directly behind them.

Using the superior firepower of the dreadnought battle line, Scott destroyed two Draul cruisers before they could respond. Once they realized their mistake, they spun to address the new force, only to find the Terrans opening up the range. One Vulcan scored a hit on the war cruiser Valkyrie, which was unable to veer out of the deadly weapon’s arc in time and vanished with all hands. As the cruisers completed their turn and began to fire, the first group of Terrans closed once more and whipsawed the Draul cruisers, which were not used to fighting on two fronts. Within minutes, the battle was over, and the Terrans controlled the system. Once Admiral Hood regained consciousness, he contacted General Geron and demanded that Scott be shot.

“I think, to prevent any undue complication, I will assign you and your staff to the dreadnought Gorgon. You will be in charge of the overall attack strategy, and Admiral Hood will make the fleet determinations for the assault and lead the attacks themselves. That will preserve his honor and will allow him to use his courageous expediency to inflict the necessary losses on the Draul guarding the base at Libuscha.”

“But sir, he outranks me.”

“Yes, I know. You are hereby given a field promotion to vice admiral, reporting directly to me. As you both hold the same rank now, he has been instructed to let you work out the strategic planning, but he will be in charge of actual operations. I have diverted the necessary staff resources for you to do so. Your intelligence officer will prepare a briefing on what we have discovered in Libuscha. Since we can move our fleets faster using our gateways, we estimate that the Draul will take another day to redeploy their fleet elements from where we have been distracting them on other fronts. That means we have to hit them within twelve hours to maintain the initiative and have a chance to take out their base in this sector,” Geron said grimly.

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