Author's Note: All material in the following story is the sole property of the author and may not be used without express permission.

Okay. Now that the serious stuff is out of the way...this story is based on an idea I had once for a novella. It will actually be an anthology of war stories set in the universe described in the prologue. The chapters will be as self-contained as possible, so waiting for me to post new ones won't be too agonizing (look, Ma, no cliffhangers!).

Review "early and often", please (you know, the way you're supposed to vote), and be honest. I'm writing this because I feel there aren't anywhere near enough good war stories on this page (and a lot of the ones that are here are starting to get on my nerves) and I want to see if I can change that. If I have or haven't, let me know.





Battlespace

© 2001 Darrin A. Colbourne



Prologue



The "Slithers" had finally made their move. A race of sentient reptiles from a world with an unpronounceable name, they had been building a massive starfleet for more than ten standard years. That fleet finally deployed, and in a series of Blitzkrieg-like offensives blockaded twelve surrounding star systems and the sixteen inhabited worlds they possessed. Governments fell like dominoes as the Slithers' ground forces landed and overthrew those worlds, destroying whole armies and fleets in their wake. It took another five months to solidify their hold, but eventually a sphere of space ten light-years wide was firmly under Slither control. With their new empire starting out well, the reptiles began to probe deeper into the galaxy.

Watching these events from afar were the United Systems, a commonwealth of fifty worlds dominated by the Human Race of Earth. The people of the US were concerned over these events, and there was a hotly contested debate in the government over what should be done about them. Having come by its own place in the universe through a series of brutal interstellar wars, the US had little interest in seeing an alien race try to match its performance, especially when that race could eventually come knocking on its door. That meant that the question was less about whether to go to war than it was when to go.

The answer came in the form of a skirmish. A US Navy cruiser on patrol in one of the outer systems caught a pack of three, stealthy Slither attack ships transiting into US space. The resultant battle left the cruiser heavily damaged and two of the three invaders destroyed. The third retreated to Slither space.

In the eyes of the President and the Congress a state of war now existed between the US and the Slithers, and war was officially declared. The campaign to liberate the worlds taken by the enemy and eliminate the Slither threat would be conducted by three veteran commanders:

Vice Admiral Martin Mitchell, US Navy, a career officer with an easygoing manner and a boyish face that belied his age. He'd started out as a fighter pilot in Earth's first big interstellar war and had been in practically every conflict since, rising through the ranks and earning enough decorations to strain the fabric of his dress blues. In times of deep space conflict the forward Navy commanders were usually given the task of plotting the overall strategy, meaning that Mitchell would effectively be in command of all US Forces deployed, as well as Naval Component Commander.

His partner in arms was Brigadier General Richard Carver, US Marine Corps. A tall, dark-skinned fighting man from the top of his bald head to the toes of his spit-shined boots, the 48-year-old officer was still built like an athlete in his early twenties. He'd come up through the ranks as well, having started out in the Corps' Recon Battalions, being dropped into battle zones so dangerous that his memories of his drill instructors seemed pleasant in comparison. He would command the Fleet Marine Force that would accompany Mitchell's ships into battle.

Commanding the largest force (and the most diverse, since the Navy and Marines had very few non-humans while the Army had millions) would be Lieutenant General Belinda Maxwell, US Army. Handsome and demure, with hypnotic light-blue eyes, one's first impression of her hardly matched her war record. She'd spent her career in armor, first in the old tanks, then in the much more agile and capable Android Fighting Vehicles, piloted robots with the hitting power of ten tanks. She'd used such machines to decimate her opponents on the battlefield. When it came time go in on the surfaces of the captured worlds, overall command of the campaign would fall on her shoulders. Her forces were being loaded on transports already, anticipating the results of the Navy's first encounters with the enemy fleet.

When the big three met for the first time, they all knew they'd get along famously. They would conduct the campaign from Mitchell's flagship, the command ship USS Revolution. With the expeditionary force assembled, the Revolution headed out to meet the enemy. Using the weapons of super science, the force would indulge in the ancient human art of warfare, contending with the Slithers for domination of the Battlespace.