The Omega Gambit: IV

They came in ready for the fight, when they hailed the attacking ship; they were not expecting what they saw on their view screen. The ship had ship-to-ship communications. When the view screen came on, what they saw was a being that was grey and hairless. Instead of a mouth, had long feeler appendages in front of what should have been its mouth, it’s eyes were multi-faceted and were a very dark purple, it had what could only be described as pincers in the place of hands, and when it spoke, it sounded like it was underwater. They called themselves the Archon, and they were from a planetary system not far from here. They had seen the ships coming and going, and knew that the ship they attacked was defenseless and from Vega. They wanted a confrontation with the Earth ship. Moreover, Mendelsohn obliged them.
They opened fire on the Archon ship with a full battery from the phase cannons, and to their surprise, the ship simply broke apart, and then reformed. This was not a normal ship, this ship was like a hundred little ships that were connected in a way where they could separate and rejoin. This was going to be an ugly battle. Mendelsohn ordered two hundred of his fighters into space, along with twenty of new style fighters, about one third of his forces, and once they were in space, he opened fire on the Archons. When the ship separated, the fighters attacked all the individual pods, they were able to take out a lot of the pods, but the ship simply reformed itself, and brought its weapons to bear on the Centauri. They had powerful weaponry. They hit the shields so hard that the ship was tossed about like a cork in the sea. Mendelsohn launched the rest of the fighter squadrons, this was a do or die battle, and once they cleared the launchers, he opened fired with everything. The ship once again separated, but this time, they had enough fighters to disable her ability to reform and they started the most intense dogfight he had ever witnessed.
Each of the little pods had a phase cannon, and even though they were not as powerful as the phase cannons on the fighters, they could still do damage. The fighters had a tough job keeping the pods from reforming into the larger ship, and if it had not been for the Centauri focusing her guns on them and keeping the firing patterns random, they would have reformed, it was a long battle, and when they finally got the upper hand, the Archons destroyed their own ship.
They wondered how many of these ships were in the area, and the Vegans were not much help. They had not ever encountered the Archon before, and there were no recorded descriptions or even log entries in their massive archive referring to them, or their ships. However, they had one now and once they got the free of the area, they set a warning beacon in space to keep any unsuspecting ships from being attacked in the future.
They escorted the Vegan ship into safe territory, and then returned on their way to Epsilon Nine. It was still two months out, and they were on guard for the Archon or any other ship that presented itself hostile. They had a week to reach Epsilon when they received a communication from Bellatrix. The Archon had invaded Bellatrix space and all ships were being recalled to come to defend the base. They turned and were preparing to follow the heading; when they received a hail from a nearby ship, it was Seanon on the Amadeus, they were to follow him to Epsilon, and the attackers of Bellatrix were attacking at Epsilon as well. This was going to be an ugly battle. Seanon asked if Regis, Michaelson, Rivan, and Shaughnessy were on the Centauri, Mendelsohn confirmed they were, and he asked them to join him as well as Mendelsohn on the Amadeus. Once they were aboard, he laid out what his plan was. He wanted them to tack to Epsilon 9, and once there to take up defensive positions just on the outside of shield range. He wanted to draw the Archon into a battle, and he wanted to take the battle to Epsilon Omega, as far away from the Station as possible. When this war was over, they would still need the Station, and leaving it to be destroyed or overran by the Archon was not an option.
The first thing Seanon wanted to do was to find the homeworld of the Archon. Mendelsohn told him that they had encountered them in the area of Betelgeuse and had rescued the Vega and gave him the full details of the encounter. That started him thinking, if that was how their ships were designed, and based on the description and the communications in the database, it seemed to him that they were an insectoid race, and probably had a hive mind. That would explain a lot. He decided to find out more if he could. They would need an environment that was conducive to an insectoid species, as well as support their anatomy. Which, seeing as they had not met one face to face, they could only go on visual record in the database.
He knew there were several planetary exploration ships in the area. These ships explored and cataloged new planets and systems for possible colonization. What if they had accidentally done them some kind of harm in the process of cataloging planets and brought on the aggression. Seanon was the first one to admit that the Archon might not have been acting on aggression but rather on self-preservation. This warranted investigation as much as it did defense of their stations. He requested current field data from the computer library of ships in that sector as well as data from the planets they had investigated and charted. He started with any that were not habitable for human colonists, just to reduce the field of inquiry. Once they had that, they asked it to locate as many of the remaining planets that had insectoid species on them. The final count was thirty-five. Of the thirty-five, six had been ruled out for colonization due to excessive volcanic activity, ten from massive tectonic shifts, and another four due to seismology issues. That left fifteen to investigate. Of those, the oxygen levels were too low to support humanoid species, and one had enough oxygen, but it contained a high quantity of methane and xenon gasses, He sent four ships to the location and waited for communiques from the ships. He also informed Bellatrix Command of what he suspected, and that they were pursuing that line of investigation.
The Archon were still attacking, but with Mendelsohn’s battle specs, they were staying ahead of the Archon forces and were at a battle standstill. They needed additional information, and they were continuing to attempt to open a dialog with the Archon and find a peaceful resolution. So far, the Archon had not been willing to talk. They were treating them like a hive of bees or a colony of ants would an intruder. Which as far as Seanon was concerned, gave credence to his hypothesis that the colonization forces had inadvertently harmed them.
He brought up all the records for the planet he thought they were from, and when he went through the scans, he saw that there was not any humanoid life on the planet. There were animal species, fish in the bodies of water, and a large variety of plant life. They saw that there were large colonies of Archon on the planet, they lived in caverns and were highly industrious, as well as having their ship construction facilities, they had a full smelting operation, and were highly social.
He wanted to talk to them, the nearest group was about ten sectors away, and they could get there in three days. He ordered all the ships in the fleet with him as well as the Centauri to accompany him to meet them. Whatever else happened, this was an attempt to stop and intergalactic war, and re-stabilize the sector. He wanted Regis on this trip. The man was a master tactician, as well as strategist, and he could see more into the mind of an opponent than any other person he had ever met.
They made all speed to the area and once they arrived, they hailed the Archon ships. One of the ships answered the hail, and when they came on visual, Seanon told them he wanted to talk, and asked for a truce. The Archon leader, paused, and then said talk. The Vegans had provided them with universal translators on all of their ships, they had replicated the technology early on, and now it was standard. The Archon spoke in a series of clicks and whistles. In addition, the translator was able to interpret it after receiving at least two hundred words or sounds. It would interpret their communications to the Archon in return.
Seanon asked them if they had inadvertently harmed them during their exploration of their planet. The Archon said that one of their Hive Queens had become ill and died once the invaders had left the planet. They were here to receive retribution for the loss of one of their Queens. Apparently, they were more insect like than he had surmised at first. Their Hive Queens laid eggs and the others nurtured and protected them. Only a Queen could guarantee the survival of a hive, and the Queen who had died was a young Queen and had not laid a Queen yet. The hive died out because of it, and they had marched to war.
Seanon realized that not all the apologies in the universe would make amends for the loss, and that they had no way to rectify it short of either killing the whole Archon race, or to fight them into containment and make their sector of space off limits to everyone else. The Archon wanted the crew of the ship that killed their Queen to pay for the death of over ten thousand Archon; the loss of the one hive had been devastating to them. They were not going to turn over the crew to the Archon for making a mistake that they had no control over. Not knowing how their presence had made the queen sick and caused her and the entire hive to die. They agreed it was a crime for that to happen, and they wanted to make amends, but the Archon insisted on them being turned over to them for execution.
Seanon told them that would not happen, but that they would back out of this quadrant of space and set warning beacons in place to prevent any of their ships, or the ships of their allies from entering Archon space. The Archon refused the offer and told them that they would rather see their entire race die out before they accepted such a paltry offer for the debt owed. That sealed it for Seanon, and they were going to be involved in their first interplanetary war in fifty years.
They opened fire on the Earth Force ships, and that started a war that would last for five years. Seanon on the Amadeus and Mendelsohn on the Centauri, opened fire simultaneously and launched all of their fighters. The war was off to a bad start. The Archon ships disconnected and it was a dogfight for the fighters, the two ships were fighting and destroying as many ships as they could, but the close flying of the Archon drones hampered them. They were excellent star pilots and their ships were highly maneuverable.
After what seemed hours, there was a lull in the fighting, the Archon ships backed away far enough for their fighters to solidify back into their larger ships, and they jumped into hyperspace. Without knowing in what direction they went, the Earth ships were forced to back away from their current location and regroup. Seanon consulted the database and came up with a new battle plan. They were going to jump to Archon, and he wanted as many ships in the armada as he could get. He intended to torpedo the entire surface of the planet and to shoot any ship that came from the surface with phase cannons and wipe them out entirely. It was a good plan, and he was confident in the success of the attack.
When they dropped from hyperspace into ordinary space, they got a surprise; the Archon had surrounded their planet with a blockade of ships, as well as having planetary phase cannons that could take out an Earth ship in orbit. They had walked into the jaws of death. This battle was going badly and in an act of desperation, Seanon had all the ships jump back into hyperspace and head for Bellatrix. They needed a fast getaway, and this was his only option.
The archon technology was good, and the materials they built their ships from had the ability to magnetically connect to each other. It formed a formidable blockade that conventional tactics could not penetrate. Once they arrived back at Bellatrix, Seanon convened a war council. He wanted solutions that were not going to cost them every ship in the fleet. Regis came up with a battle plan that might get the job done, but to do it, they would need to adjust one of their two man fighters, and outfit it with a hyper-drive. Beyond that, he would not say what the plan was, but they knew it would take them close to four years to outfit that ship according to his specifications.
They sent ships to Epsilon Nine to defend it on the outside chance the Archon attacked the station. It was a long and pitched battle. The war dragged on, both sides took heavy losses, the Archon were closer to their home, and reinforcements came quicker, the Earth Forces had decided that involving their allies in this war was the wrong thing to do, and had told their allies what had happened and that if they were able to come to peaceful terms with the Archon, then do it.
They were reinforced a few months after the initial battle with one hundred heavy cruisers, the same class of dreadnaught as the Amadeus, and twenty of the Centauri class Cruisers. They were headed to Archon space as an armada when just outside of Betelgeuse, the Archon attacked, in mass. This was the first time that such a large force of Archon had ventured beyond their space. They were taking the fight to Earth controlled space.
They battled near Alpha Centauri, Bellatrix, Vega, all around the Orion Constellation, out into the Taurus sector, and beyond. The Archon were outnumbering them four to one and they kept coming. No one knew exactly how many ships they had, or how many Archon there were. The Archon Queens were laying eggs at an astronomical rate and no one knew how long it took an Archon to mature. This war was exhausting for the Earth forces and they needed to get the upper hand soon. They had brought every ship they had into the war, and with all these ships engaged with the Archon, the other more hostile races that were out there. Those who had been reticent to engage the Earth forces or their allies due to the sheer numbers of ships were beginning to attack outposts in every sector of space.
The ship that Regis had requested to be modified or built was finally ready, and when it got to Bellatrix, Regis had one more modification to make to it. Earth ships had previously stopped using cloaking technology, about fifty years earlier, they still had the technology available, and what it did was bend light around the ships that had the technology, and make it appear invisible. It could be tracked if they engaged a plasma drive, but the hyper-drive did not use plasma as a power source, and that was his ace in the hole. They would drop out of hyperspace in orbit around Archon, and quickly descend into the atmosphere. They had seen limited success with plasma torpedoes in the first battle and it had given him the idea that if they engaged a hyper-drive within the atmosphere, the mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, and xenon gas would cause a planetary fireball and burn everything off the surface of the planet. The problem they faced was that it would be a one-way ticket. Whoever operated that ship was not coming back. While discussing it with Seanon, Mendelsohn came up with an alternate idea, one that had not been thought of by Regis. What if they used a hyper-drive engine like a torpedo? They could attach a hyper-drive to the new ship, and fit with a remote activator and drop it into the atmosphere from space. They would not need to lose the ship or the crew. Regis gave it careful consideration and they built the necessary controls to fire the hyper-drive, and attached it to the hull of the new ship.
They prepared for the mission, this was not going to be a cakewalk by any means, but at least it was not going to be a one-way trip. They would need an escort until they reached the edge of Archon space. From there, they would engage the cloak, and then on inertia, with nothing more than station keeping engines, they would follow their trajectory until they could drop the engine.
This was going to be a long trip, several months in fact, and that was just from the edge of Archon space to their planet. This would take a crew who were used to working in close quarters with each other, and who could stand to be in tight quarters for extended periods. Shaughnessy volunteered. He and Regis had pulled deep space recon duty shortly after graduating the academy before getting their first cruiser assignment. They had been in a ship the same size as the two-man ship for eight months. They had been able to pass the time, and not go space crazy in the process.
The Amadeus and the Centauri were going to take them to the drop off, and they would not need to be in the close confines of the ship until they arrived at the rendezvous for the drop off. One of the things they worked on while in route was the logistics of getting to Archon. It was decided to drop them a parsec away from where they had originally discussed being dropped off, to fire the hyper-drive, and drop out of hyperspace cloaked and on inertia after reaching the edge of Archon space. That would shorten the trip by three months and get them much closer to the planet.

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