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Henry Gallant and
     the Warrior

Going Up
1

Lieutenant Henry Gallant plodded along the cobblestone streets of New Annapolis—head down, mind racing . . .

My orders say take command of the Warrior immediately . . . but no promotion . . . Why not?

 

He pondered the possibilities, but he already knew the answer. Though he had steely gray eyes, a square jaw, and was taller than nearly everyone around him, what distinguished him most was not visible to the naked eye—he was a Natural—born without genetic engineering.

Is this my last chance to prove myself?

By the time he reached the space elevator, the welcoming breeze of the clear brisk morning had brightened his mood and he fell into line behind the shipyard personnel without complaint.

 

Looking up, he marveled: That cable climbs into the clouds like an Indian rope trick.

 

When it was his turn at last, the guard scanned his comm pin against the access manifest.

 

The portal light blinked red.

 

“Pardon, sir. Access denied,” said the grim-faced sentry.

“Call the officer of the guard,” demanded Gallant.

The officer of the guard appeared but was no more inclined to pass Gallant through than the sentry was. The guard touched the interface panel and made several more entries, but the portal continued to blink red.

“There’s a hold on your access, sir.”

Trouble already? Gallant thought. Then he asked, “A hold?”

“Yes, sir. Your clearance and authorization are in order, but SIA has placed a hold on your travel. They want you to report to SIA headquarters, A.S.A.P.”

“I need to go to the shipyard and attend to important business before going to the Solar Intelligence Agency,” clarified Gallant, but even as he said it, he knew it wouldn’t help.

 

“Sorry, sir. Orders.”

Gallant noticed the four gold stripes of a captain’s sleeve. The officer was waiting to take the next elevator.

“Captain?” he said, hailing the man before he recognized him.

Captain Kenneth Caine of the Repulse marched to the guard post, frowning.

“What can I do for you, Gallant?”

Of all the luck, he thought. Caine was the last person he wanted to impose upon, but it was too late now.

Several uncomfortable moments passed with the three of them standing there—Caine, Gallant, and the officer of the guard—staring at each other, waiting for someone to break the silence.

Finally, Gallant addressed Caine: “Well, sir, I’ve received orders to take command of the Warrior, but apparently all the T’s haven’t been crossed and my shipyard access has a hold from SIA.”

Caine’s frown deepened.

Gallant turned to the officer of the guard and said, “Is it possible to allow me go to my ship and complete my business? I’ll report to SIA immediately afterward.”

The officer of the guard fidgeted and squirmed. He understandably did not like being placed in such a position while under the scrutiny of a full captain.

Caine shrugged.

Gallant was puzzled for a moment, wondering how to win Caine’s support.

He tried the officer of the guard again, “Perhaps, you could send a message to SIA headquarters stating that you informed me of my requirement to report and that I agreed to attend this afternoon after I assume command of my ship. I’ll initial it.”

Caine nodded.

The guard brightened visibly. “That should be acceptable, sir.” He made a few entries into his interface panel and the portal finally blinked green.

Gallant stepped through the gate and joined Caine. Together they walked to the elevator doors and mingled with the group waiting for the next available car.

 “Thank you for your help, captain,” said Gallant. “I’m sorry to have troubled you.”

Caine merely nodded.

 

Unwilling to miss the opportunity to reconnect with his former commanding officer, Gallant asked, “How’ve you been, sir?”

Caine’s frown returned. “Well, personally, it’s been quite a trial . . .”

Gallant resisted the temptation to coax him onward.

After a minute, Caine revealed, “I lost a lot of shipmates during the last action.” He sighed and took a moment to silently mourn their passing.

“I’m sorry, sir,” said Gallant, who was sensitive to the prickling pain in Caine’s voice.

 

Gallant then took a long look at the senior officer. He recalled a mental image of his former commanding officer—solidly built and squared shouldered with a crew-cut and a craggy face. In contrast, the man before him now was balding and flabby, with a puffy face and deep frown lines.

“Humph,” grumbled Caine, recognizing Gallant’s critical stare. “You’ve changed too. You’re no longer the lanky callow midshipman who reported aboard the Repulse nearly five years ago.”

 

“Thank you, sir,” said Gallant, breaking into an appreciative smile.

Caine returned the smile and, warming to the conversation, he said, “We had a few good times back then—and a few victories as well—a good ship, a good crew.”

A minute passed before Caine added, “As for the Repulse—she’s suffered along with her crew . . . perhaps more than her fair share. As you know, she’s has been in the forefront of battle since the beginning of the war, but when the Titans attacked Jupiter Station earlier this year, we took a terrible beating—along with the rest of the fleet.”

Caine’s face went blank for a few seconds as he relived the event.

The Titans used nuclear weapons to bombard the colonies. The loss of life was staggering. Jupiter’s moons are now lifeless, scorched rocks. The colonists fled on whatever transport they could find and they’re now in the refugee camp on the outskirts of this city,” said Caine. Then, trying to sound optimistic but unable to hide his concern, he added, “We gave the Titans some lumps as well. It’ll be some time before they can trouble us on this side of the asteroid belt.”

 

“So I understand, sir.”

SWOOSH! BAM!

The elevator car doors opened with a loud bang.

Caine stepped inside. Gallant grabbed the strap and buckled himself into the adjacent acceleration couch.

A powerful engine pulled the glass-encased car along a ribbon cable anchored to the planet’s surface and extended to the Mars space station in geostationary orbit. A balance of forces kept the cable under tension while the elevator ascended—gravity at the lower end and the centripetal force of the station at the upper end. The tiny vehicle accelerated swiftly to seven g’s and reached orbit in less than ten minutes before braking to docking speed.

Gallant enjoyed a spectacular view as the car sped through the clouds. Below him was the receding raw red and brown landscape of Mars spread over the planet’s curvature; above him was one of man’s most ambitious modern structures; —a space station, replete with a shipyard that housed the newest space vessels under construction including Gallant’s new command, the Warrior, as well as ships in need of repair, including the Repulse.

Gallant tried to pick out his minute ship against the much larger battle cruisers nested near it, but the rotation of the station hid it from view.

“Repulse is completing extensive repairs. She’ll be back in action before long. I have a fierce loyalty to my ship and I know she’ll acquit herself well, no matter what comes,” said Caine.

“I’m sure she will, sir,” said Gallant.

“I haven’t congratulated you on your first command, yet” Caine said, extending his hand. “You’ve earned it.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Gallant, shaking hands, while a thought flashed through his mind,

 

If I earned command, why wasn’t I promoted?

“Do you have any idea of your first assignment, yet?”

“No, sir. It could be almost anything,” said Gallant, but he was thinking,

Probably involves the Warrior’s special capabilities.

Caine said, “At least you’ll get a chance to strike the enemy.”

Gallant said, “We still know so little about the aliens’ origins or intentions. Since they’ve taken Jupiter, they’ve expanded their bases from the satellites of the outer planets. They’ve also penetrated into the asteroids. That puts them in a position to launch raids here.”

Caine said, “I once asked you, ‘What’s the single most important element in achieving victory in battle?’”

“Yes, sir, and my answer is the same: surprise.”

 “Yes,” Caine said, “but to achieve surprise, it’s essential for us to gather more intelligence.”

 

“I agree, sir.”

“Tell me, Gallant,” Caine said, as he shifted position, “are you aware there are many people who hold you in contempt? They still doubt that a Natural can serve in the fleet.”

Gallant grimaced. “I’ve always done my duty to the best of my ability, sir.”

“And you have done admirably, from what I know of your actions, but that hasn’t fazed some. I’ve heard little about your last mission.”

“I can’t discuss that mission, sir. It’s been classified as need-to-know under a special compartment classification,” said Gallant, as he thought,

I wish I could tell you about the AI berserker machine. I can only imagine what’s in store for the Warrior.

“Nevertheless, I’ve heard that Anton Neumann was much praised for that mission. He was promoted to full commander and given the cruiser Achilles, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if his father’s influence played a role in that.”

Gallant said nothing, but stared down at his shoes,

Neumann always wins.

Caine grunted and then said, “Neither of us is in good standing with Anton’s father.”

Caine and Gallant had previously run afoul of Gerome Neumann, President of NNR, Shipping and Mining Inc., and an industrial and government powerbroker.

Gallant nodded.

Upon arriving at the space station platform, the elevator car doors opened automatically and once again banged loudly.

SWOOSH! BAM!

A long, enclosed tunnel formed the central core of the station with twenty-four perpendicular arms that served as docking piers. The tunnel featured many windows and access ports to reach the twenty-four ships that extended from the docking arms.

The two men chatted about the war news while they rode a tram along the tunnel causeway. Finally, Gallant left Caine at the Repulse and continued to his new command.

A swarm of workmen buzzed along the Warrior’s scaffolding, cranes hauled machinery to and fro, and miscellaneous gear lay haphazardly about. An infinite amount of preparation was under way, servicing the ship in anticipation of her departure.

Gallant gaped . . . There she is.

He leaned forward to take in every line and aspect of the ship. Despite the distractions, he saw the ship as a thing of exquisite beauty.

The Warrior featured a smooth rocket shaped hull and while she was smaller than her battle cruiser neighbors, she weighed thirty-thousand tons with an overall length of one hundred and twenty meters and a beam of forty meters. She was designed with stealth capability, so she emitted no detectable signals and remained invisible until her power supply required recharging.

 

Her armament included a FASER cannon, several short-range plasma weapons, and several laser cannons. She was equipped with an armor belt and force shield plus electronic warfare decoys and sensors. The ship’s communications, navigation, FTL propulsion, and AI computer were all state-of-the-art. The crew of 126 officers and men, was highly trained and already on board. When the Warrior traveled through the unrelenting and unforgiving medium of space it would serve as the crew’s heartfelt home.

The brief, relaxed sense of freedom that Gallant had enjoyed between deployments was coming to an end; his shoulders tightened in anticipation. He stepped onto the enclosed gangplank and saluted the flag that was displayed on the bow. Then he saluted the officer of the watch and asked, “Request permission to come aboard, sir?”

“Permission granted, sir,” said Midshipman Gabriel in a gravelly voice that was totally at odds with his huge grin, dimpled cheeks, and boyish freckled face.

Was I ever that young? thought Gallant before he recalled he was only a few years older.

Boarding the ship, Gallant’s eyes widened as he sought to drink everything in. He was impressed by the innovative technologies that had been freshly installed. The novelty of his role on this ship was not lost on him. Upon reaching the bridge, he ordered Gabriel to use the ship’s intercom to call the crew to attention.

“All officers, report to the bridge!” Gabriel ordered. When the officers had gathered around him a minute later, he said, “All hands, attention!”

Drawn together on every deck, the crew stopped their work, came to attention, and listened.

Gallant recited his orders, “Pursuant to fleet orders, I, Lieutenant Henry Gallant, assume command of the United Planet ship, Warrior, on this date at the Mars’ Space Station.”

 

He continued reciting several more official paragraphs, but from that moment forward, the Warrior was a member of the United Planets’ fleet and Gallant was officially her commanding officer.

 

With the formal requirements concluded, Gallant spoke over the address system: “At ease. Officers and crew of the Warrior, I’m proud to serve with you. I look forward to getting to know each one of you. For now, we must outfit this ship and prepare to do our job as part of the fleet. There are battles to be fought, a war to win, and the Warrior has a key role to play.”

Satisfied with his brief statement, Gallant nodded to Gabriel.

Over the address system Gabriel announced, “Attention! All hands dismissed! Return to your regular duties.”

Gallant stood before the officers on the bridge, addressed each by name and shook their hands, starting with the executive officer and then the department heads; operations, engineering, and weapons; followed by the junior officers. His first impression was that they were an enthusiastic and professional group.

“I will provide prioritized work items for each of you to address in the next few days as we prepare for our upcoming shakedown cruise. For now, you can return to your duties. Thank you.”

 

Gallant entered the Combat Information Center and pulled on a neural interface to the ship’s AI. The dozens of delicate silicon probes touched his scalp at key points. It sensitively picked up wave patterns emanating from his thoughts and allowed him to communicate with the AI directly.

 

Gallant formed a mental image of the Warrior's interior. While Gallant could use the interface for evaluating the ship’s condition, the controls remained under manual control. He hashed out his priorities for his department heads to work on and sent them messages. He ordered them to address the myriad of items he had been mentally considering for hours. While he would have liked to have had a discussion with each officer individually, that would simply have to wait. It was time to get back to the space elevator. Gallant frowned in frustration at being pulled away by his appointment:

I’d better hustle to SIA.

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