Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Deleted Battle Chapter

Thought I'd post this deleted chapter.  I really enjoyed writing this chapter as it was going to be the first "real" battle in the book.  One hope I had was that by adding an action chapter like this early, it would help excite readers.  One thing that made me realize that isn't always the best approach was reading the first book in Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series.  The first book, Dauntless opens with a fleet basically retreating from a battle and most of the book has them on the run.  The actual battle doesn't take place until the very end, but it was still one of the best books I've read.  Now, I did leave some action scenes/chapters, but removed this one for word count and the simple fact that it includes no main characters to the story.  It was more of a gratuitous battle scene.

However, the battle did set the stage for the main plot to begin unfolding.  My main character was working on a research project when word arrives that a "friendly" ship was destroyed stopping an enemy ship en route to Earth.  This information reached the research station with orders to mobilize personnel (including the main character) to another ship and prepare for the enemy. 

Again, I really enjoyed this chapter, but in order to reduce word count, I deleted it and just included a reference to it in the message sent by the

Remember, this was a first draft of the chapter, so it is probably a bit rough.  Hope you like it though.  It might give an idea for how I tried to set up battle scenes (wanted them to read with some credibility).

Enjoy and Write On.

Chapter X

Captain Terrance Curtis stepped onto the bridge for his watch shift on the Reliance.  The destroyer-class cruiser was said to be the fastest ever constructed by Ganeshans.  Despite the honor of being the commanding officer, Captain Curtis sighed at his orders.
Investigate star system for signs of enemy presence,” summarized the orders.  The details that followed did not provide any useful information.
The most advance ship in the fleet chasing sensor ghosts from other systems along possible paths, he thought.  Unfortunately, he also saw the logic in the orders.  Reliance possessed the speed and maneuvering agility of smaller cruisers and more firepower than any ship in its class.  It was also the closest ship to the designated coordinates.
He walked to the main science station.  First Officer, report.
The officer on duty nodded to him responding telepathically, Not much to report, sir.  All scans of the sectors give no indication of a recent FTL conduit.
Captain Curtis’ eyes opened slightly wider.  Clarify what you mean by ‘recent.’
Of course, Captain.  We have picked up possible signs of FTL activity.  Analysis of the system scans show minor deviations in the orbital patterns of system debris consistent with a small FTL corridor.  Most likely a probe.  We estimate it occurred no more than sixty days ago.
Captain Curtis pulled the scan details on his PDU.  It had taken nearly two days to scan and analyze the details.  He had hoped to find nothing to justify leaving, but that would not happen now.
Comm officer, prepare an FTL compod.  Include the scan data, analysis, and the most likely courses based on known Ozaran territories, probable incoming and outgoing FTL conduit coordinates, and recent intelligence reports.
A young woman with short black hair turned and to the captain, Sir, the FTL conduits were in the same area.  Whatever came here didn’t continue.
Captain Curtis pulled up the data on the system where the sensor ghost leading to his orders was identified.  The improbable had happened.  Along the projected course, there was only one logical target for the Ozarans.  And they’re practically defenseless, he thought.  Whatever they would send, sooner or later it would come through this system.  The last system they would have to leave FTL for a final course adjustment.
He sat in the command chair and activated the ship wide comm.
“Attention all hands, this is the captain,” he began.  “We have confirmed a recent enemy presence and are in the process of informing Tactical Command.  We will continue to patrol this system at general alert status until reinforcements relieve us or we receive orders to leave.”
Captain, the compod is ready, Captain Curtis heard from the communication officer.
Captain Curtis knew it would take nearly thirty days for the compod to reach its destination and another thirty days to hear a reply.  If reinforcements would come, it could take days longer for them to arrive, assuming there were any ships close by.  Even when the first ship, or ships, arrive that would not mean Reliance would be relieved.  But for at least the next sixty days, they were the only line of defense.

For twenty days, Captain Curtis kept his crew occupied, running combat readiness and emergency drills.  For the last five days, the captain instituted a competition recommended by the first officer for each of the four watches.  Each watch crew was given the same exercises, and the crew that displayed the best readiness won.  The first officer’s watch crew won three times straight and Captain Curtis was determined to break that streak.
“This is the captain,” he boomed over the comm. “Prepare for drill zero two six.  We’ll start with precision firing tests and follow with simulated targets.  Remember, you’re the captain’s watch and as captain, I should not have to settle for second in anything on my ship.”  He eyed the bridge crew, not needing telepathy to feel their tensions.  When we have won the next five competitions, I will personally buy each member of this watch a flask of Ozarian ale.”
Cheers erupted from the bridge.  Ozarian ale was a favorite of military personnel for years even though aside from having the look of Ozaran blood, there was no other connection to alien enemy.  Captain Curtis remembered the story that when the first barmaster introduced the non-alcoholic beverage, he marketed it under the idea of drinking the blood of an enemy after a victory.
Bribing the crew, Captain? The first officer mused.
A good captain knows how to motivate the crew,  Captain Curtis replied.  Besides, I heard you promised three days of R&R for each competition your watch wins a majority of the competitions.  You know, it’s my duty to approve, or deny such requests. 
The first officer smiled and walked off the bridge leaving Captain Curtis to his war game.
“Contact, port-side, twenty five degrees positive on the dorsal side,” called the tactical officer.
Captain Curtis head snapped in the direction of the tactical station.  The simulation he selected started with contacts to stern.  Tactical officer, confirm simulated or real contact.
“It’s real, sir.  The simulation hasn’t begun yet,” the tactical officer replied.  “FTL conduit forming twenty five light minutes from it.”
So whatever it is, it came through almost twenty five minutes ago, Captain Kerr thought.  “Battle stations!  Tactical, I want to know what we’re dealing with - size and number of vessels approaching.”
Intercept course Captain? the helmsman asked.
Captain Curtis shook his head. Hold position, helm.  I want to see if they turn to us or run.
I don’t understand.
If they run before we confirm their identity, it could mean they are a smaller vessel that could identify us first.  That could indicate they’ve made advancements in scanning technology.  We’ll send that information on.  Captain Curtis stared at the main viewer and the indicator highlighting the location of the FTL event horizon.  “Comm officer, prepare an FTL compod.  I want a live feed of all our transmissions, scans, and log entries sent to Tactical Command when we are within five light minutes of the incoming vessel.”
The next ten minutes passed in silence.  Then the tactical officer spoke up, “I have confirmation on the enemy ship’s course.  Ozaran medium cruiser is on course to through the system, zero point one five light and accelerating.  Based on current course, they’ll be able to go back to FTL in ten hours.  I’m projecting probable targets along their most likely FTL flight path.”
“I think we know the probable target,” Captain Curtis interrupted.  He knew the Reliance could easily overtake the enemy vessel, but did not want the Ozarans to know how easily.  “Set intercept course and accelerate to zero point two five light.”
We could intercept almost an hour sooner at zero point three light.  The helmsman sent his question telepathically because verbally questioning a superior’s orders was considered a violation of protocol. 
Captain Curtis knew everyone on the bridge had the same question, but only the helmsman deliberately shared it.  He’s opportunistic, but not pushy.  My kind of officer.  Captain Curtis tried to keep the thought sheltered from the helmsman’s telepathic mind.
“We’ll show the Ozarans what we can do soon enough.” This was the only response Captain Curtis shared.

Seven hours passed.  Ordinarily, the next watch crew would be ready to take over, but with only minutes until Reliance engaged the Ozaran vessel, the captain had ordered them to man the auxiliary stations.  Reliance was the faster, but the medium cruiser possessed greater firepower.
“Tactical, I want every scan detail you’ve done on that ship linked to my PDU immediately.”  The tactical officer complied without any reply.  Captain Curtis went through various details.  He confirmed the obvious weapon placements, seeing no blind spots to exploit.
“I want a readout of their power distribution.  Setup an overlay on the main viewer with real-time scans,”  Captain Curtis knew real-time was relative.  The scans would have the same light-speed based time delay, but by the time they reached engagement range, the delay would be negligible.
“Two minutes until we’re in weapons range, Captain,” the tactical officer announced.
“Helm, adjust course, ten degrees positive z-axis.  We’re close enough that if they drop mines I don’t want to run into them.”
“One minute until firing range.”
Color fluctuations through the Ozaran ship figure on the viewer caught the captain’s attention.  He knew what it meant even before the tactical officer spoke again.
“Enemy vessel is raising shields and powering weapons,” the tactical officer said. 
Captain Curtis could see from the power readings, not only did the Ozaran ship outgun Reliance, it had more powerful shields.  We have to hit them first and it has to count.
“Helm, take us to zero point three light, maximum acceleration.  Tactical, raise shields and ready weapons.”
“Yes sir,” both officers replied.
Seconds later the tactical officer called out, “Enemy ship is firing.”
Captain Curtis watched the tactical readout as the energy weapons and missiles passed behind Reliance, where the ship would have been had they not accelerated.  He programmed coordinates into his PDU and transferred them to the tactical station.  “Aft ventral thrusters, bring us perpendicular to the enemy vessel.  Target all forward weapons on these coordinates and set to fire.  Set helm to automatically reverse engines as soon as the first salvo of missiles launches.”
Thirty seconds later, the exchange of fire between warships began.  For a long five seconds the shields on both ships flared colorfully as they disbursed energy absorbed from incoming fire.  The power surges briefly distorted the display on Reliance’s main viewer.
“Damage report,” the Captain Curtis called.
“Forward shields down forty percent, FTL system damaged,” replied the crewman at the engineering station.
“Status of enemy vessel.”  He could see most of the information on the main viewer, but wanted confirmation of details.
“They’re shields are weakened and a minor hull breach near a dorsal weapons emplacement.  I’m also reading fluctuations in their power output,” replied the tactical officer.
Captain Curtis nodded.  The power fluctuations were significant.  He knew the Ozarans were trying to re-route power to firm up shields in the damaged section, but to do so would require drawing power away from other areas, leaving them more vulnerable.
“Helm, get us back into firing position for the same target.  Keep us on a parallel course.  Tactical, as soon as we’re in firing range, target their engines.”
“Yes sir,” replied both officers.
“Thirty seconds until weapon’s range,” the tactical officer announced.
Captain Curtis watched the enemy vessel larger on the main viewer.  He gripped the armrests on his command chair as Reliance began firing.  The Ozaran ship’s shields flared, disbursing the energy of the attack throughout.  The view looked like a series of rainbow waves rippling through the shields.  To the captain’s surprise, the light show stopped quickly.  It could only mean one thing.
“Helm, evasive full starboard!  Tactical drop mines!” he shouted.  Sudden explosions rocked Reliance hard enough to throw Captain Curtis from his chair and to the deck.  He heard commotion throughout the bridge as the crew scrambled to get back to their stations.
“Report!” he ordered.
The crewman at the engineering station was the first to reply.  “Bridge computer is inoperative, Captain.  We’re blind here.”
That was not a report Captain Curtis could accept.  He retrieved his PDU.  “Auxiliary control, this is the captain.  Bridge systems are down.  Report status.”
Moments later the familiar voice of the first officer replied.  “Main engines down to seventy percent capacity, ventral shields down, and we have multiple hull breeches.”
“What happened?”
“The Ozaran reversed engines as we fired on them and they hit us hard as they passed below.  Our automatic targeting system compensated enough to maintain eighty percent targeting efficiency.”
“What’s the status of the Ozaran vessel?”
“I’d have to say we gave as good as we got.  Their dorsal shields are down and their bow shields took severe damage when they collided with a couple of mines.”
“I’ll be down there in a minute.  Bring us around and protect our ventral side.  Have a medical crew report to the bridge to tend to wounded.”
“Yes sir.”
Captain Curtis ran from the bridge and into an elevator, keying the command to take him to the auxiliary control deck.  Two decks before reaching the destination he felt himself thrown into one of the elevator walls.  We’re hit again, he thought.  He quickly realized the elevator had stopped.  He tried the override, but it did not respond, so he opened the control panel and pulled the emergency release lever forcing the hatch to move slightly.  He continued pumping the lever until the hatch slid open enough for him to squeeze through.  Lights flickered in the corridor as he went to the emergency access conduit barely ten running paces away.  He slid the manually operated hatch aside and climbed into the conduit, using its ladder to climb down the last two decks.  Moments later, he arrived in the auxiliary control room.
“Report,” he called as the crew turned to face him.
“We’ve both made another pass on each other,” the first officer began.  “We were able to hit their unprotected dorsal section with particle cannons while keeping our ventral side protected.  We’re reading more power fluctuation in the Ozaran ship.  I think we’ve damaged their main power systems and they’re trying to re-route backup power.”
“They’re almost in weapon’s range, coming directly towards us,” another crewman announced.
Captain Curtis turned his attention to the viewer as the Ozaran ship closed.  “Helm, full reverse for fifteen seconds, then I want full forward acceleration and starboard thrusters.  Tactical, program firing solution with forward and starboard weapons.”
The crew complied with practiced efficiency.  Shields lashed again and the power surges again created distortions in the viewer.  Then a crewman turned to the captain and first officer.  Horror covering her face as she reported, “Sir, enemy vessel has fired their port maneuvering thrusters.  We’re on a collision course now!”
“Emergency evasive!  Sound collision alert!” the captain shouted.  He quickly realized his ship’s inertial dampeners had also sustained damage as Reliance’s helmsman complied with his orders.  The captain nearly lost his footing, stumbling forward a step before regaining his balance.  The emergency klaxon sounded throughout the ship as the two vessels closed. 
“Put the enemy vessel on the main viewer,” the first officer ordered.  Almost as soon as he finished speaking, the Ozaran vessel appeared. 
It was so close that the ship filled the viewer.  Seconds later, both ships began firing.  Captain Curtis imagined that, from the outside, the weapons fire between ships so close would look like a solid sheet of multicolored energy between them.
Again, Reliance lurched under the impact of the enemy weapons.  Captain Curtis realized that, at such close range, targeting efficiency was irrelevant.  There was almost no chance of missing. 
Power surges overloaded most of the displays and systems in the auxiliary control room.  He looked at the functioning displays at the tactical and engineering stations to see the impact points on his ship.  He realized that the only reason they could survive was that as the helmsman implemented the evasive maneuver, he has also fired maneuvering thrusters to keep the most heavily shielded section of Reliance facing the Ozarans.
The firing finally stopped and Captain Curtis made his way closer to the engineering station.  “Report.”
“It’s coming in slowly, sir” the engineer said.  “Main computer has taken damage, all shields are down, hull fractures across…”
Another series of explosions interrupted the engineer’s report.  His console exploded in front of him, leaving deep gashes and burns on the man’s face.  Captain Curtis, also cut and bleeding from flying debris, checked his crewman’s pulse.  He lowered his head and turned to survey the damage in the room.  A support beam had broken through the ceiling and killed the first officer.
“We’re hit again, Captain,” the tactical officer yelled.  “I don’t understand.  We were out of range and they couldn’t have maneuvered that fast…”
“They deployed more mines and we ran directly into them,” Captain Curtis replied looking at the wreckage.  If we sustained structural damage this deep in the ship, the damage must be vast.
He moved from one station to another trying to query the ship’s status and that of the Ozaran ship.  When none responded, he pulled his PDU and tried to link into the ship’s main computer.  It was slow, as the engineer said, but he began to retrieve some data.  Reliance had suffered catastrophic failure in its defense and drive systems.  The main power core was unstable.  All that was still functional was minimal sensors, emergency life support, and a couple of maneuvering thrusters.  Then he tried to access the sensors to determine the status of the Ozaran ship.  All he could retrieve was its general location, course, and speed.
“Helmsman, I need maneuvering thrusters.  Turn us seventy degrees to port.”
“Just follow my orders,”  Captain Curtis said.  Then he went to the communication station, unsure if it worked, he tried a ship wide call.  “Damage control teams, focus on engines and weapons.  Emergency medical team to auxiliary control.”
Captain Curtis then turned and walked silently from the auxiliary control room.  He followed the corridor to a hatch with a sign that said “OBSERVATION LOUNGE.”  As he entered one of the few leisure rooms on Reliance, he sighed at the devastation.  The entire outer wall was made up of three clear plexi-panels allowing crew members to relax and watch the outside.  Metallic emergency panels now covered two of the panels.  Furniture and other items in the room were piled up against the emergency panel and the remaining plexi-panel as a result of the explosive decompression obviously suffered in the room.
A tear came to his eyes as he moved the debris from the storage compartments built into the far wall.  He finally retrieved a digital enhancing scope, typically used by crew members for stargazing.  But Captain Curtis had a much closer target to view through the scope.  He quickly found the Ozaran vessel and set the scope for maximum magnification.  The ship had split and the two major sections were adrift and tumbling.  He felt some satisfaction in the moments when the dorsal section faced Reliance showing hull breeches throughout.
“We gave better than we got,” he whispered.  He stared again and then frowned as he saw a projectile launch from the aft section of the Ozaran ship just before a series of explosions, beginning with the engines engulfed the severed section.  He knew immediately from the trajectory the projectile wasn’t a weapon. 
He set down the scope and pulled his PDU querying the computer for the status of their FTL compod.  He sighed in relief to see that it had entered FTL two minutes before the battle had begun.
Now we just have to hope that our compod reaches our reinforcements before theirs does.  He knew that was not the only concern.  The Ozarans, knowing their ship was destroyed would certainly send a larger force.  He hoped that, even though the compod launched from Reliance did not have data on the battle that his superiors would realize Reliance was lost and send a stronger force also.
An alert klaxon sounded again, followed by a garbled automated message.  “Alert, main power core overloading.  Failsafe is not responding.  All hands abandon ship.”
Captain Curtis did not leave the room.  He knew the escape pods could only store provisions and atmosphere for a few weeks and it would be at least two months before any allied ships arrived.  Any crewmembers who survived the explosion were almost certain to face slow death from starvation or oxygen deprivation.
He turned over a chair and pulled out his PDU.  He queried his personal files and looked though a family album.  Images of his wife and two adult daughters appeared.  He had hoped to make it home in time to see his youngest daughter graduate from her medical training.
 “I love you all,” he whispered continuing to change from image to image for the next seventy-two seconds.  Then Reliance exploded.

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