On November 20, 2016 I put Exodus: Machine War: Book 3: Death From Above on Amazon. It is available at Amazon.US, Amazon.UK, and of course all of the other Amazon outlets. Like most books this year, this one took longer than usual to write, and I had to drop a lot of other projects just to have the energy to complete it, including my blog. I should be able to get back to bimonthly blog entries again, as well as ramp up my productivity again. The CPAP is doing wonders, and while I’m not back to one hundred percent, at least I am getting around better and even hitting the gym for an hour four days a week. Right now I am working on a fantasy I hope to sell to Baen, then I will start on book 5 of Refuge, since I haven’t put anything out in that series for almost two years. From there it will be back to another Empire at War book, then the second volume of Theocracy, followed by yet another Machine War book. I have big plans for 2017. I may be able to finish off Exodus: Empires at War, though I still think it will be completed in 2018. From there I will be looking to develop a new series, possibly one I’m titling Exodus: The Empire, which will go back to the time of the human Exodus from Earth, on to the establishment of the Dictatorship, on through the Kingdom, and further, to the Empire. Some of the stories hinted about in the Empire of War books will be filled in. After that I will have to find something else to keep me out of trouble and off the streets. I have also released Theocracy: Book 1 and Exodus: Empires at War: Book 11: Day of Infamy on Kindle Unlimited, for those waiting for those books to reach that sales outlet of Amazon. And now for an excerpt to Exodus: Machine War: Book 3: Death From Above.
“We’re lining up for the first pass, ma’am,” called out the Force Tactical Officer.
Vice Admiral Mara Montgomery nodded as she continued to study the tactical plot. There were almost three hundred ships ahead of her force, forty of what the humans thought of as Machine capital ships, ninety of their cruisers, and one hundred and sixty scouts. Montgomery was facing them with eight battleships, fifteen battlecruisers, thirty-eight light cruisers and eighty-one destroyers. In tonnage it was almost an equal fight. Her main advantage lay in the fact that all of her ships were capable of traveling through hyper VII, while the Machine vessels were at best able to get into VI. That gave her four times their pseudo-speed, and made her ships invulnerable to their attacks while she occupied the higher dimension. She could still launch missiles in VII, dropping them down to VI while they were still travelling slowly enough to make the transition, point three light.
Of course, while the enemy couldn’t strike at her ships from lower to higher hyper, she couldn’t fire back with her beam weapons as well, and her own missiles would still only be approaching at a suboptimal velocity unless launched from distance. If she wanted to use her lasers and particle beams against them she would have to move into hyper VI, which meant that all of her ships would have to get down to point three light. That caused another problem, since the enemy fleet was moving at well over point nine seven light, and her ships would quickly fall behind as they tried to accelerate at maximum rate to catch up. That was a losing proposition. Even if she could get up to that velocity, the radiation it would cause to sleet through her ships could be deadly. Or she could drop down to VI ahead of them and let the enemy move through her formation while she attacked, then jump back to VII to come back and get ahead of them again.
I could beat them that way, she thought, her agile mind using the data she had to plot a battle plan that would destroy the Machine fleet. She would also take a beating, but she thought she would still have a command, while the enemy wouldn’t. If that was the only thing she had to face, that was what she would do. Unfortunately, there were other vessels in that Machine force, three of them, in fact. And they were her major headache.
The planet killers had shown on the sensors well before the rest of the Machine vessels. At one hundred kilometers in diameter, and massing several trillion tons, they had to be the largest, most massive spaceships ever built. The Donut was much larger, but that giant station around a black hole didn’t move, with the exception of its orbital path. And it didn’t carry the weapons of the massive warships that seemed to be armed much like battleships in proportion to their mass. She didn’t even know how to hurt them. She had studied the holos of the attack by the force that had guarded the Klassek system and engaged a single one of the huge killers. And everything they had thrown at it had not been enough.
The analysts thought the planet killers had at least a kilometer of armor, maybe as much as five. Not even a missile strike would penetrate. One coming in at point nine five light might punch through, but the inside of the planet killer was most probably crammed with machinery that would absorb the blast. Their generators and antimatter stores were stored deep in the vessel, and standard missiles would not get through to them.
And I don’t have a convenient black hole to lure them into, thought the Admiral. One enterprising battlecruiser captain had done just that, and had tricked a planet killer into a close pass of a black hole. A couple of missiles preaccelerated through a wormhole had knocked the planet killer closer to the black hole, dropping it through the event horizon. She didn’t have anything that powerful. Hell, while she was in VII she couldn’t even use the one wormhole her force carried to send preaccelerated missiles into the things. And even worse for her, the planet killers carried huge graviton projectors that could drop a vessel in hyper back to normal space in a catastrophic translation. Which meant she had to keep her distance from the ships she most wanted to stop.
“Make sure everyone knows to give those big bastards a wide berth,” the scout force commander told her Com Officer.
Moments later the message went out, both through short range com and grav pulse, and through the wormhole back to the Bolthole command center. She knew the ship commanders had already been briefed and cautioned, but she wanted to make sure they knew how important it was not to risk their vessels for no return.
“Beginning run,” called out the Force Tactical Officer. On the plot the first of the destroyer squadrons closed on the enemy, keeping their distance, well beyond the estimated range of the graviton beams. A second squadron moved up on the opposite side. All the ships were moving at point three light, able to drop missiles down into VI or lower if necessary.
The plot blossomed with vector arrows leading away from the destroyers, immediately dropping into hyper VI and starting their acceleration toward the enemy ships at fifteen thousand gravities, well above their sustained rate. Sustained rate meant nothing in this engagement, since the missiles would strike within a minute of launch, or be gone.
“Enemy is starting to shift their formation, ma’am.”
That was what she had been afraid of. As long as the other ships had screened the planet killers she had a chance of whittling their force down. The graviton beams would also drop their own ships out of hyper, accomplishing Montgomery’s task for her. Now the screening ships were starting to shift inward, while the planet killers moved out, one to a side, the third staying put in the center, where it was equidistant from all sides of the formation, ready to move toward the next threatened area.
They didn’t get into place in time, and the first wave of missiles, almost three hundred weapons, came sweeping in from both sides. The screening vessels, mostly scouts, took them under fire with counter missiles and lasers. With over a hundred ships firing on the missiles most of the human weapons were taken out, only twenty-three making it through the defensive fire. They generated three hits, and two enemy ships disappeared from the plot, destroyed or damaged badly enough to drop them out of hyper.
“Well, that didn’t work so well,” said the Tactical Officer, earning a stare from his Admiral, the one who had planned the attack.
“It’s too late to change this run,” said Montgomery. “Continue the attack.” And we’ll try something different when we come back.
The next pair of squadrons hit, sending out the same number of missiles. They also generated a hit, killing one Machine ship. The group after that wasn’t so lucky, the planet killers in place and sending wide spread graviton beams out. All of the missiles dropped off the plot as they fell out of hyper, followed by one destroyer that had gotten too close.
“Was that ship within the predicted range of the beams?” asked Montgomery, getting up from her seat and storming over to the plot. The machines had so far lost three ships, she only one. But her ship had contained living breathing beings, sentients with their own hopes and dreams, now gone forever.
“It was not, ma’am,” replied the Tactical Officer. “They seem to have greater range than we thought.”