Chapter 10

Scott Pearson sat in the wardroom talking with Commodore Hadley and Chief Lorne. Admiral Hood walked in and helped himself to one of the turkey and cheese sandwiches sitting on a plate off to one side of the large conference table.

“I understand that you gentlemen have an idea you want to run by me?” the older admiral said, looking down at the schematics laid out across the table. The holographic projector had been adjusted to display them horizontally, a few centimeters above the table surface. Hood set his plate in the middle of the upper right corner of the displayed drawing.

“Yes, Admiral. I wanted to know if this had ever been tried before,” Scott said.

Hood took a bite of his sandwich and studied the virtual drawing. It showed the engines and nav systems from three Stingray-II missiles, but with the payload of an ion discharge mine.

“What exactly are you trying to accomplish here, Admiral Pearson?” Hood remarked, accenting his title just enough to show that he approved of neither Scott’s promotion nor the attack on his person that had helped achieve it. Still, he had to grudgingly admit that Pearson had found a tactical gold mine in his discovery of the Draul aft shielding weakness. That respect for results, in spite of the means, was the only reason he tolerated the younger man’s position as strategic joint commander.

“Well, sir, we know that the Draul are weak when attacked from the rear, but it is very difficult to get our ships in behind them when they have escorts to protect their flanks. They also appear to be immune to normal minefields, because their strong front shielding can take direct hits, allowing them to clear lanes through the field.”

“Go on,” Hood said.

“We believe that if we give the mines legs, they can delay their detonations until after the Draul pass over them and then sprint to attack their ships from the rear,” Hadley finished for Scott.

Admiral Hood tilted his head as he considered such an obvious solution, one he had not thought of. His own methods primarily consisted of moving the battle line into position and slugging it out with his opponent until one of them yielded. The Draul, unfortunately, seemed naturally suited to resist this tactic, as their formations allowed them to reverse away from Hood’s battle line while presenting their superior forward shields and Vulcan weapons toward his advance.

“So, if I understand your intentions correctly, you want to lure them into a minefield and then have the mines attack them from behind?”

“That is correct, sir. If we can get them busy chasing us, they may be vulnerable to this kind of trap,” Hadley said.

Hood smiled with the look of an impatient father waiting for a slow son to catch up.

“First of all, Admiral, they control all of the territory we’ll be advancing into; thus, there is no way for us to seed a minefield without their knowledge.”

He took another bite of his sandwich and waited until he had swallowed before continuing. It did junior officers good to wait on their superiors.

“Secondly, they’ll just retreat toward their base when we arrive, thus favoring their traditional battle doctrine. How do you propose we get these mines into their rear?”

Scott was ready for that. He had been a senior admiral in his own space-time for several years, and had no intention of taking this kind of drubbing from the likes of Admiral Hood.

“Sir, when we deploy the Star Caster and open fire on their base, they’re going to have to advance on it to take it out. At that point, their normal doctrine will accommodate a more traditional defensive engagement on our part. We can use that tactical advantage to create our own prepared fire zones. I intend to send my task force ahead and run for the far side of the system. From there, we can lure their mobile component into a chase without yielding battle.”

“Continue.”

“Our fast task group, TG-12, will consist of our battle cruisers and fast attack destroyers. Once we have their mobile units in play, your slower task group will transit and begin setting up the Star Caster and minefields. At that point, they’ll be forced to return and deal with your component, and we can attack them from behind as they turn to intercept. With our superior speed, we can stay in their rear arcs and evade return fire from their Vulcan weapons.”

Hood thought about this a moment and forgot about his sandwich.

“And if they refuse to give chase?” Hood asked.

“Then they give up the initiative and we can deploy a mine field of our own in the space around their base. We will relay their posture back to you before you transit, so you will know which formation you’ll be facing when you arrive.”

Hood thought about the plan, but couldn’t find any obvious holes.

“Very well, I tentatively approve your plan. Run as many simulations as we have time for. We have to transit to Libuscha within the next eight hours, or we risk having their diverted reinforcements return and spoil our attack window. I’ll report our strategy to General Geron and begin drills with the task groups.”

Scott allowed himself a mental sigh of relief, and the two other officers were visibly more relaxed.

Hood addressed Scott’s senior weapons engineer directly.

“Chief, get with the engineering teams and start putting some of these mobile mines together. I want inert mines ready to drill within four hours, as many as you can get ready. Use whatever manpower you need,” Hood said, and then reluctantly added, “Good work, gentlemen. And good hunting to us all.”

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