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Robert Laurel

Into the Deep Black

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Posted (edited)

"Fifth Fleet, arriving."


Admiral Sieglinde Wettin stepped through the main hatch trailing her entourage of her Flag Lieutenant and aides into the main entryway into the SMS Bismarck. The Marines were lined up on either side, laser rifles at present arms, while the ship's band played the Terran Federation's anthem, "World in Union,” followed by "Deutschland uber Alles.” This was appropriate due to her titles of Crown Princess of Germany and Queen of Saxony. She saluted the Federation colors and then the ship's captain, Friedrich von Bulow. "Permission to come aboard, captain?" she asked formally.


"Permission granted, admiral," he replied just as formally. "Your staff is on board and getting squared away. Let me show you to your quarters." Flag accommodations on a flagship were luxurious, but especially so here as Bismarck was not only a fleet flagship, but also a squadron and division flagship as well.


"Very well, Captain," Linde replied. "Signal the fleet flag officers meeting and dinner in my wardroom at 2000". They stopped in front of the door to flag country. The two Marines stationed there, both dwarves, snapped to attention. Linde acknowledged the salutes with a nod and passed through the open door, closing it behind her. Her halfling steward, Lily, who had been with her for fifteen years, stuck her head out of the pantry in greeting. "You'll find all as you like it.”


"Thank you, Lily,”  was the reply as Linde sank down into the comfortable chair behind the desk. There was a lot of work to be done in preparation for tonight's meeting. Lily would see that everything was Just So and would do her usual superb job of managing Linde's life on shipboard. Halfling stewards were much sought after in the Fleet. Captains who were lucky enough to get one fought fiercely to keep them.


She gazed fondly at the three holos of her family at her desk. One was that of her husband, the elf Elladan, in her favorite pose, kneeling on the earth holding a sword, point down, clad in only a kilt. He had long black hair that she just loved to run her fingers through. He was a physicist whom she had met while he was teaching at Max Planck. She smiled broadly at the faces of her sixteen-year-old twin children. Heinrich, her heir, stared out at her with darkly handsome features. He would not be brilliant, bit he would be competent, and you really couldn't ask for more than that. He would probably make the army a career after his four years mandatory service. Her daughter Annaliese, four minutes younger, looked out at her with the platinum-blonde hair and blue eyes that she had inherited from Linde. She had an ethereal beauty. The elven blood ran strong in her. She was an avid outdoors woman, having learned to ride before she could even walk.


The dinner and meeting were a roaring success. Two hours had been spent around a 3D chart of the Assiniboine system, plotting their strategy for the forthcoming enemy attack. He was coming to stay to seize the system’s tech and industrial base. According to intelligence it would happen in twelve weeks. That meant ten weeks of drills and exercises and then her ships would go to their hiding places deep in Regina’s seas and in gas giant atmospheres and among the debris of the asteroid belt.


Over in one corner, her chief of staff, Vice Admiral Vicky Windsor, aka Victoria Windsor, Princess of Wales, was talking quietly with her husband, Admiral Henry Percy, Duke of Northumberland. He was known as ‘Harry Hotspur’ due to his exploits as a destroyer commander. He was her second-in-command and commanded her screen in the battlecruiser HMS Hood. Over in another corner, her ground forces commander, Gloin son of Ori, was playing dice and drinking vast quantities of dwarven ale with two of his cronies. His forces would be on the planet ready to deal with any landings. There weren’t any elves present, they had fought a hard battle six months ago and had taken heavy losses in their victory. They had to stay to guard Elvenhome from any threats.


Billions of years ago, there were two additional planets in the Sol System orbiting where the asteroid belt is now, the superearths Tiamat and Marduk. Marduk had one satellite, Mars, then known as Middle Earth. Superearths are geologically unstable. Tiamat exploded. A fragment collided with Marduk, causing it to explode. Three pieces of Marduk slammed into Mars’ southern hemisphere, in the space of fifteen minutes changing it from a verdant garden world into a cold, barren desert. The collisions stripped away the atmosphere and caused the water to evaporate. Fortunately, the elves had achieved star flight and had colonies on Earth and in other star systems. In 9600 BC a fragment of Tiamat collided with the Greenland ice cap, ending the Ice Age and caused the ice dams on top of the ice caps to collapse, sending trillions of tons of water cascading into the oceans and shutting down the Gulf Stream. The climate took twenty years to recover, sending the civilizations on the planet back to the Stone Age.


The enemy was orcs. Lots and lots of orcs. Nobody had ever said they were stupid. Somehow they had gotten the plans for the giant colony ships and built a few of their own without anyone knowing. They had packed them in cold sleep berths and set sail down arm. Fortunately they  didn’t take trolls or ogres with them. They had found a world thousands of light years distant and settled. Once they had built up their numbers, they reverted to type and began slave raiding and piracy all along the Sagittarius Arm. It had taken three thousand years for the elves to run into them. Nobody knew where their home world was. If it was ever found plans were to sterilize it with nukes. There were a lot of half-orcs around, most of them the result of rape. Women on the frontier were advised to keep a last bullet or laser charge for themselves if in danger of capture. Both sides used them as spies. The information about the impending invasion had partly come from spies. Three orc systems had actually defected to the Grand Alliance, figuring civilization was better than what they were doing. They weren’t allowed in the armed forces, but defended their worlds fiercely. Elven missionaries reported that the offspring were less and less orc-like with each generation, holding out hope that they could be someday redeemed.


Elven and human remote viewers had sensed the invasion force gathering. All elves were telepaths, mostly weak ones. Those who could communicate at interplanetary distances were snapped up by the Fleet. They were how Linde would coordinate her counterstrike. About one to one-half percent of humans had psychic abilities. Remote viewing and foretelling were rare and eagerly sought out. The magic was gone. That had died when the Elven great ones perished in the destruction of Middle Earth. That had not been foreseen, leading the Elves to conclude that it had been meant to happen. Linde herself was a weak telepath with her husband and children. She had Elven blood going back thousands of years. Before Terra had industrialized, it had been a favorite leave port for elven starfarers. They would set down their ships in Scandinavia and northern Germany and dally with the local women.

Edited by Robert Laurel

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