The doors to the hanger bay slowly parted. The force shield holding the environment in the bay flickered slightly as the air momentarily rushed towards the black inky vacuum of space. Alex stood at the center of his officers. They were lined up in two neat rows while an honor guard of the ships Marines stood at attention in parallel lines with their weapons at parade rest. Klaxons sounded as the shuttle entered the bay. The plain steel gray craft slowed as it entered the bay. Its slab sided bulk slowly lowered itself onto the landing pad closest to the arranged rows of officers and Marines.
After it had completed its landing. the Marines turned and quick stepped into two rows flanking the hatch. They stood to attention as the hatch opened. Even covert meetings and secret trips had pomp and traditions to be followed in the Rense System Navy. Alex stood, rather calmly with his hands behind his back, as the hatch opened the the ramp came down. Pioneer troopers came down first, followed by what looked to be a collection of administrators, Fleet Colonels, Fleet Captains and Fleet Marshals. They filed down and joined the other soldiers and Fleet officers in neat rows. Salutes and hand shakes were exchanged. Alex felt all their eyes on him. It was a bit unsettling. It seemed they knew why Fleet Marshal Gronier was here.
As Alex became lost in thought, he awoke form his reverie as one of the higher ranking officers shouted “Attention! Alpha On Deck!” The woman emerging from the blocky shuttle craft looked to be in her early 40's. She was tall with a mane of silver hair flowing down her shoulder. It was arranged in a complex of braids with a heavy looking silver tie at the end of the arrangement. It looked like the “Wings Of Liberty”, The Symbol of the Federation. She was actually quite lovely, with high cheek bones and a slight frame. The look in her eyes could have penetrated a Terran energy shield. They were locked firmly on Alex. It was her, Supreme Fleet Marshal Delphine Rense-Gronier. The “Silver Fox” they called her, well at least not in her presence. Alex knew she was a little over 62 years old, but thanks to Directorate Bio Sciences looked to be in her Early 40's. Her nickname was earned thanks to her silver hair, apparantly it had been that way from a very young age, and her hallmark hit and run tactics when prosecuting campaigns. Her forces were like ghosts and her tactics were reminiscent of the old Earth General Erwin Rommel.
The Fleet Marshal strode confidently down the ramp Saluting the Marines as she went past them. Alex Stepped forward and saluted.
“Welcome the the Leonidas sir! I am..” Marshal Gronier Interrupted as Alex spouted his greeting.
“Do I look like a sir Cross? I hate that protocol Cross. As we have never met that was your one warning”
“Yes ma'am” Her stare seemed to be boring a hole into Alex. He was off to a great start.
“At ease Fleet Marshal, you look like you are going to faint.”
The rumors of her candor did not prepare Alex for the actuality of it. Alex relaxed and lowered his hand from his salute.
“Apologies Fleet Marshal, I am just surprised you are here. Last word was your Task Fleet was in the Omicron Theta System, I take it things did not go well” Alex froze as he realized how frank his statement was.
A wry smile broke the sternness of her face. She seemed almost amused. She glanced back at one of the officers that had arrived with her with a raised eyebrow. He was a middle aged man with close cropped hair and a jagged scar down the right side of his face. He looked as if someone had slapped him. He shook his head in what seemed like an act of contrition.
She gestured for Alex to walk with her. As they walked side by side towards the briefing room the other officers and Marines filed in behind them.
“Marshal Fromer was right about you Cross”
“Right about what ma'am?”
“You are blunt and speak your mind, terrible quality in an officer”The Marshal smiled as she made the statement. Alex was a little taken aback, but she continued.
“Terrible in an Officer, but an excellent quality in a front line Task Fleet Commander and as an adviser.” “ Which is primarily why I am here Cross” Alex tried to contain his confusion.
They continued for a few minutes winding their way through the halls of the ship until they arrived at the briefing room. Fleet Marshal Gronier took the place at the head of the table and gestured fro everybody to sit. The Stewards served scotch and refreshments to the officers as the Fleet Marshal brought maps and fleet dispositions up on the holo projector at the center of the table.
“Lets get down to business, Omicron theta was a disaster and its because that bastard Gravanivitch was feeding us false intel. We have apprehended the spies among us and now our mission has changed.”
Alex was a bit shocked by the Fleet Marshals directness. There were audible groans and sighs at her pronouncements. She continued for several minutes detailing the regroup and reinforcement of the miscellaneous fleet groups still at large from the battle. From the displays and information it looked as if she was planning on hitting the system with about twice as many ships and was dedicating the RNV Dramos to the fight. The Rense Navies sole Leviathan class warship. This was more than an extended campaign to take a planet, this looked to be a plan of vengeance. Marshal Groniers legendary temper seemed to be getting the better of her. A thought occurred to Alex, this looked like a very well orchestrated diversion. The number of assets and the sheer amount of fire power was over kill.
“Ma'am, this looks reckless. Unless you are trying to draw forces off of Schaumberg Prime.....”
Alex trailed off as all eyes looked at him. Several of the men at the table were shaking their heads, a couple had mortified looks.
“Why would I try to do that Marshal Cross?”
Alex felt trapped, but the wry grin on the Fleet Marshals face showed her hand. With as much confidence as he could muster he answered.
“Ma'am, If it were me I would say I would be drawing forces off of Schaumberg prime to make sure my second smaller Battle Fleet had the element of surprise when it shunted in to take the system......And secure a foothold to hit the Fortress.” The pronouncement made Alex sit back in his seat. The eyes moved from him to the smiling Fleet Marshal Gronier.
“You are sharp Cross. I also cannot take full credit for the plan...”
“Panzer......” Alex laughed slightly. That cunning spider.
“As I recall Cross you have dealt with this Relth in the past?”
“Yes ma'am. His name is very hard to say quickly so I just called him Panzer. He might as well be a tank as big as he is. When I was A Fleet Colonel we participated in joint operations with his hive for over a year.”
Alex knew why she was here “So you want me to treat with the Relthoza fleet thats here.” It wasn’t a question Alex made it as a statement of fact.
“Yes Fleet Marshal I do, they should be here within the hour.”
“Actually Ma'am they are already here.”
“They communicated their arrival time Cross, it was to be in about an hour.”
“True, but Panzer always arrives early and being the consummate hunter that he is probably already has the fleet surrounded.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes ma'am. He follows the old ways and his queen does not suffer failure from her 1st consort.”
As if on cue, the bridge signaled the conference room.
“Sir this is the bridge, a large hunter fleet just appeared on the scopes with full weapons lock.” The panic in the officers voice was obvious.
“Understood, do not return weapons lock. Roll the ships belly towards the battleship.”
“How did you know there was a battle ship sir?”
“Just roll the ship Lt.”
Alex grinned. That crafty spider was probably shadowing the Fleet Marshals ships the whole time.
“Presenting your belly Cross?”
“Yes ma'am, all the better to lure him in.” Alex grinned. Panzer was probably having a good laugh on his bridge. This was going to be interesting. Hopefully nobody would die when they went to meet with the Relth. The spider was a traditionalist after all.
Until next time Crush the Alliance and as Always...