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Chapter 9

July 24, 2409 AD

U.S.S. Sienna Madira III

Thgreeth Abandoned Outpost Planet Deep in Expanse

700 light-years from the Sol System

Saturday, 11:37 A.M. Eastern Time

“My fleet is ready and has skeleton crews of my people right now!” Sienna Madira told them. Alexander always found it interesting that she called the clones “my people”. After all, Madira was born on Earth and purely human as far as he knew. The clones were manufactured by hybridizing from humanity and whatever Copernicus was. And, the things were merely vessels for the artificial intelligence counterpart controlling them. Alexander wasn’t sure they were truly a “people” but now wasn’t the time to split hairs about the issue.

He turned to the DTM view that was being transmitted to the bridge of the hybrid bot swarm reconfigured Chiata megaship and human/clone designed supercarriers combination that was the U.S.S. Sienna Madira III.

“Look how many megaships the Chiata have in the system,” he added.

“No matter,” Madira interrupted him. “You have eleven functional megaships of your own with the Buckley superweapon and at least one already in that system—maybe two by now, knowing your daughter and Admiral Boland. I’m here in my flagship with ten fully crewed ships for support. I just delivered seventy-two more supercarriers with skeleton crews fully loaded with bots and Buckley-Freeman barrier shields and the new quantum jump FM-14Xs. The existing fleet ships here are now loaded and ready to go with the new fighters as well. We are loaded for bear on all our ships. What are we waiting for, son?”

“It’s a trap, Sienna. The QMT systems will let us in but not out. And the thing that has me unsettled here is that it isn’t a system blocking all QMTs. It is a cage that allows QMTs within it,” Moore replied while all the time thinking to himself, I’m not your fucking son.

She is your mother in-law sir, his AIC added in jest.

I married Sehera not her. You were there. You know what a horrific evil bitch she was. Her present status notwithstanding, I’d still like to rip her goddamned head off and vaporize what’s left of her and piss on any remaining dust just for my men that she slaughtered.

Yes sir. How would your wife feel about that?

At the time Elle Ahmi was torturing me probably the same. When she learned that the crazy bitch had killed her father, probably the same. Now? Now that she is back to being Sienna Madira, the savior of humanity, I, uh, I just don’t know.

I understand, sir.

I’m not sure I do.

“A cage sir?” the XO, Sally “Firestorm” Rheims asked. It shook him from his other distracting and troubling thoughts. Moore turned to his longtime executive officer and nodded.

“Firestorm, why are they letting our fleet QMT inside the boundary of the QMT suppression field?” He asked rhetorically because he was pretty damned sure he knew the answer. “And on top of that, why are they letting our ships QMT inside the bubble?”

“You’ve got me, sir.”

“Alexander, what is it?” Sehera’s avatar asked. She was still on the planet in the Thgreeth ruins below with the science and archaeology teams.

“They want us in there and distracted for a long amount of time,” he replied. “If they wanted us dead they would suppress the QMTs within the trap and make us sitting ducks. But with the QMTs we can jump around and hold our own, maybe as long as we need to. No, this isn’t a kill box, it is a cage.”

“Sir, battle sims show that the expeditionary ships presently in the system will last no longer than an hour in there,” the science and technology officer pointed out. “And maximum hyperspace speeds would take them about two weeks to get out of it.”

“Alexander, you do what you want,” Sienna Madira grunted at him. “I don’t answer to you or your command structure any longer. My people and your daughter are trapped in there and I’m going to get her with or without your help.”

Moore started to respond but held his tongue. He was certain that Madira chose her words carefully and emphasized it was his daughter to make the point that it was her granddaughter, but human history still had yet to uncover that bit of information or the fact that Sienna Madira had been Elle Ahmi, terrorist and mass murderer. For now, Alexander was happy with that bit of history being hidden from public view.

Besides, his daughter was a tough as hell by God U.S. Marine mecha jock who had come out of some of the worst combat anyone had ever heard of and could take care of almost any situation. But Alexander wasn’t kidding anyone with that type of bravado. Dee was his daughter, his princess. He wanted to slap Madira dead for even considering that he was going to leave his princess in there to die. But at the same time, once they were in there, they were in there. From the images in the Thgreeth ruin’s system it appeared as though the thickness of the bubble from inside radius to the outside radius of the QMT suppression boundary was nearly a light year. As the STO had just pointed out to him, that would take weeks at maximum hyperspace jaunt speeds and the Chiata hyperspace jaunts are much faster. The fleet would drop out of hyperspace right into a kill box, again. But just maybe they’d be clear of the damping field and could QMT snap back out of there with minimal losses.

“Why and how are the Chiata doing this?” The XO shrugged. “How’d they know we were coming? And who gave them the goddamned QMT damping tech?”

“Good questions all, Firestorm, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have many thousands in system trapped and being attrited more and more with every second.” Alexander took in a long breath and let himself relax his mind for a moment. He watched several battle simulations in his mind that Abigail ran for him. None of which had high probabilities of success. He needed a plan to get his people out and to get to the bottom of what was happening. If it were ever time for a good plan, maybe even a plan within a plan, now was the time.

“Son, sometimes, the best way to figure out who is setting a trap is to spring the trap,” Madira added holding up her wrist band as if she were about to snap back to her ship. “I’m going back to my ship and preparing to jump. Are you coming or not?”

Abigail, are we battle ready? he thought to his AIC.

Yes sir. The ship is in full optimal condition according to Chief Engineer Buckley’s AIC. Abigail replied.

Start working on a way get us out of there.

Of course, sir.

“Air Boss, tell the CAG that she is just going to have to get training in the new mecha while under fire.” He ordered. “Helm start the calculations for a full fleet jump into the target star system.”

“Aye, sir!”

“Alright, Madira, get your fleet ready. Perhaps, if we hit them in two waves from different locations we’ll catch them off guard. I think we drop in at a safe distance from our people and fire half of our Buckley weapons. That should distract them enough so that we can then use the other ships to move in and support our people. I say we bounce our fighters out as soon as we get there and put them right in behind the assholes locked up on our jocks. That should mix them up a bit. I’ll have battle plans sent to you all ASAP.”

“Good, son. We’ll be ready in five minutes.” Madira flashed out.

I’m not your fucking son, he thought.

“Sehera, keep working with that Thgreeth system and see if you can figure anything out.” He told his wife.

“We will. Alexander, bring her home.”

“We will.”

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