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Back aboard the Intrepid, Revarjah met him and Kat in the hangar bay when he returned from giving his speech. The Felician looked a little uneasy and Michael had a hunch that watching billions of humans scream for alien blood was making him a tad nervous. “Michael,” he called out as they neared. “I watched your address. It was very… inspiring. So much so that my people are demanding that I ask you if they can play some part in the coming battle.” He sighed and looked away. “After wearing the chains of our conquerors for so many years, we need a chance at vengeance; to feel pride in ourselves again.”



Michael considered the request and then smiled. He clapped Revarjah on the shoulder and told him, “We’ll find a place for you yet. This will be our fight, but I’ll make sure your people get their chance to shine.” The Felician looked relieved at his words and Michael began making plans. He wouldn’t let them face warships in the cargo haulers they came in on, but perhaps they could modify the mercenary vessels.



As Kat went off to find Tanya, Michael took a trip to the bridge to see what the Intrepid needed to achieve “ready status.” He was curious to see the hatch that led inside secured shut and two armored troopers stationed outside of it. Overriding the lock, he walked into the massive space and smiled. Waving the hatch shut behind him, he slowly walked towards the captain’s chair.



Stacey was currently occupying the seat while Aurora was being bounced up and down the length of the younger girl’s impressive strap-on. “That’s it, you little slut,” Stacey told her boss as she grabbed Aurora’s flailing boobs viciously and ground the blonde woman down into her lap, bucking her hips wildly to drive her plastic phallus as deep as it would go. “Just like that… I bet you’ve been craving this all day.” Stacey stood and began fucking the captain from behind, holding her hips so she could ram the thick fake appendage into her sopping cunt as hard as she could. “But this is a punishment, so don’t you dare enjoy it too much…”



Aurora’s thick puffy lips eagerly sucked in the large pink dildo, her pants and gasps becoming more distinct. By how red and raw her pussy looked, he could tell Stacey had been at it for awhile. “And just what does my stunning commander need to be reminded of?” Michael asked as he came up behind them. He reached out a hand and cupped Stacey’s ass cheek, probing a finger into her cleft. He sighed in satisfaction, letting her know he really enjoyed the view of her tight tush driving into Aurora’s and she proudly picked up the pace even more.



“Oh good… You’re here, master,” Stacey moaned in a breathy voice. “Please plug her mouth for me? She’s been doing nothing, but annoying the crew with it for days now. After she tried to order them into the escape pods for the third emergency drill of the day, I finally cleared the room and ‘sat her down’ for a little talk.”



Aurora made to protest this obviously distorted history of events, but squeaked when she promptly found her mouth plugged by Michael’s cock. Threading his hands down to grasp her flopping tits, he located her nipples and began twisting them back and forth, enjoying how the squeals they drew made her throat vibrate against his prick. “Was she really all that bad?” Michael asked as their plaything shuddered through another orgasm.



Stacey’s eyes sparkled. “Nah,” she admitted, smirking. “I just thought she needed it as badly as I did. And while the drills are getting a bit ridiculous, everyone is worried about the upcoming battle and no one is balking about extra practice. They can tell she’s doing it because she cares about them and they love her for it.” Aurora had gotten quiet at this last part, humbled to know she still had her crew’s support. She guessed she had been acting a bit crazy lately.



Michael hummed in thought. “The invasion didn’t really count. This upcoming battle will be our baptism under fire. I think we’re all a bit nervous. Still, nothing for it but to prepare as much as we can and hope for the best…” He cupped Aurora’s cheek and smiled at her gently. She sighed when she felt him brush her hair back.



He pulled out of her delightful mouth and sat in his chair. Stacey grinned and let Aurora collapse to her knees amidst the aftershocks of her release. She bounced over to Michael and promptly sat in his lap, his member sticking up between her legs. She giggled as she slid to the base of his shaft, leaning against him, and began jerking him off with both hands. “Now I’ve got two of ‘em,” she laughed. A wicked gleam came to her eye and she shouted, “Come, slut!”



The captain’s head snapped up, her submissive tendencies coming to the forefront. She crawled over to where the couple was reclining in the custom seat welded to the deck. Stacey patted her lap and said with a salacious smile, “Hop on, bitch.” Aurora rose and paused as she saw the two things she could use to impale herself on. She threw Stacey a curious look, clearly asking which one she was supposed to use. Her subordinate simply watched her slyly. Aurora’s eyes widened as she realized she was expected to use both.



Turning around, she backed into their prospective laps. “I don’t think I’ve had anything that big in my ass befo-” she nervously started to say and was cutoff when Stacey delivered a sharp slap that left a red handprint on her right cheek.



“Did I ask you for your prior work experience?” Stacey rebuked. “You have five seconds… four…” Aurora’s eyes widened and she hastily tried to jam the phallus up her rear. She didn’t quite make it, but as the young girl pointed out, that just gave them a reason not to go easy on her.



Stacey held Aurora’s full breasts while Michael alternated between the captain’s hips and his young coordinator’s perky tits. Aurora was used completely, neither of them going easy on her and both determined to make it last. For the two on the bottom, it was actually a somewhat relaxing experience, Stacey loving the feel of being sandwiched between two bodies while Michael enjoyed having so many attractive handholds. “We might have to do this when the ship is moving,” he chuckled and Aurora gave a squeak of dread, knowing he’d do just that if the mood struck him and damn how many observers happened to be there.



Finally, Aurora sobbed, “No more. Oh… no more, please!” She slumped to the deck, completely over-sensitized; a veritable cloud of steam coming out of her exhausted cunt. Michael unbuckled Stacey’s strap-on and started fingering her pussy, enjoying the stretchy tightness and the silky smoothness of her lips. She’d been experimenting with different designs for grooming her hair and it looked like this week was a heart.



As she moaned at his touch, he delivered a sharp slap between her open legs, shooting a spark of electricity that had her squirming in his lap. Lifting her easily, he placed his tip against her opening and slammed her down his length. Stacey’s mouth formed an “O” at the suddenness of the intrusion and her eyes actually watered before her hips started moving on their own accord, hungrily accepting his prick.



Michael bucked his hips, driving her closer to release. At last, she cried, “Oh, shit! Ah yes, yes, yeeee-” She squealed suddenly as Aurora’s hand snaked out and twisted her clit viciously. Looking down at the older woman, she felt a spark of fear when she saw the cruel intent. Someone was looking for some payback. The captain buried her head in Stacey’s lap and began sucking mercilessly on her tender love button.



Stacey whimpered and tried to push her head away, but found that Michael had wrapped his arms around her, still bouncing her lightly on his lap. Stacey moaned in distress and her legs shook. ‘Help!’ she spoke to Aki in her head.



Curious, Aki gave a questioning response. Stacey provided the image of what was happening and the petite Asian girl laughed. ‘Oh, that’s just wicked,’ came the response. ‘I think Rin and I will go do that to Dejah now.’



* * * * *



Michael walked into the packed conference room, the holographic representations of the other commanders lighting up the room. Admiral Johnson gestured at Aurora and Marcus who’d followed him in and remarked, “I thought we’d agreed that only those commanding divisions of our forces would be present for this meeting.”



Michael gave an unimpressed grunt of acknowledgment and waved behind him airily. “Meet Admiral Lindström and General Weber. They’ll be directing my ships and, should the need arise, borders and repellers. Marcus’s back straightened at that. Michael knew he thought of himself as a glorified security chief, but if he was going to be leading Michael’s army on alien planets, he’d have to start acting the part.



Aurora piped up, “I’m not an admiral. I only control one ship.”



Giving an impatient wave, Michael explained, “The crew on this ship will be directing the general movements of the AI fleet. Therefore, you control all those ships they control… Quit debating semantics.”



Aurora made to argue and Michael stepped close and whispered, “Look. I’ll be directing our forward units inside a fighter. There’s a good chance I’ll be killed. If that happens, I need someone with some clout to direct things until I come back.” Her eyes widened and she slowly nodded her head in acceptance.



Unable to contain himself any longer, Admiral Johnson exploded. “You can’t just create an admiral position on a whim,” he blustered, sounding offended at the very idea.



Vice Admiral Song sighed impatiently. “He’s a completely separate and sovereign entity. He can do whatever he wants with his military. Now can we move on? I have a feeling the B’Amuf won’t accommodate us if they show up and we require more time to prepare,” he spoke in impeccable English.



Michael inclined his head and took his seat while Admiral Johnson glared at his subordinate. Vice Admiral Song was, as far as Michael knew, the only person of North Korean descent that had been able to obtain a commission in the Council’s military. The winds were changing, but there was still tremendous resentment towards certain countries. Song had placed first in the accelerated academy program the Council had put together for all incoming flag officers needing to get used to space combat, beating out a host of applicants from well-to-do political families. He was a bulldog of a commander whose stubborn determination impressed enough people to give him a chance.



In the Vietnam war, being well connected meant you got to stay home. Nowadays, you were barely respected unless you served in some capacity for Earth’s survival. The academy and other similar institutions was working to cut down incompetence like a scythe cuts wheat, but there were still quite a few ‘political commanders’ slipping through the cracks.



They thought leading a fleet or commanding a vessel was just one more notch on their belts. Everyone fully expected an international senate or representative body of some sort to form soon as the Council was bombarded by problems from every corner of the globe. Politicians were hoping to get a head start on the process. It was simply going to be impossible to serve as a big-name statesman in the future without having been in command of something during Terra’s most dire moments.



“And why haven’t we moved into position yet? There’s less than five hours until the probes say they’ll arrive,” Admiral Johnson huffed unnecessarily as Pandora had clearly displayed the countdown timer in the center of the table.



Having grown used to dealing with stupid questions from the man the Council had placed in overall command of their forces, the other senior officers prepared to humor him. Michael was nowhere near as patient or understanding. “Just what do you expect the B’Amuf to do when they see us splitting into two parts?” he questioned. “It wouldn’t be to widen their lines, by chance? You think they might split their own forces to counter, perhaps?”



Johnson’s face turned red and he retorted haughtily, “Well, don’t you imagine the plan will suffer if we try and change our position at the last minute?”



“There is no plan if we don’t make them commit themselves,” Michael gritted.



Not wanting to back down, the admiral gave a derisive snort and said, “I still don’t see why we don’t simply hide our ships behind Mars and then surprise them.”



Having had enough, Michael roared, “Because planets move, you fucking moron, and the position of Mars is nowhere near their planned route of approach!” Admiral Johnson opened and closed his gaping mouth like a fish, his face turning a fascinating shade of red. “No!” Michael shouted, cutting him off. “Just shut the hell up and enjoy the position you obtained from having had senators in your pocket back when you voyaged the seas.”



As the admiral made to speak, now fully enraged, Michael cut him off again, “So help me, if you risk the lives of billions by not letting those who actually have a clue take the lead on this, I’ll have Pan vent the air in your compartment.” The red-faced man’s mouth snapped shut, shocked at the threat. Michael waved a hand and Pandora caused Johnson’s holographic image to blink out.



Turning to the assembled commanders who all looked stunned, weary, or satisfied, Michael asked, “Questions?”



Unfazed, General Zhukov asked, “What do you have planned for when they cross the asteroid belt?”



“Something that will throw them into disarray, have no doubt,” Michael replied with a feral grin. The exchange seemed to open the floodgates and all those commanders in charge of their divisions began clarifying their orders and hammering out last minute changes.



* * * * *



James Merrick sat in his fighter cockpit, waiting for the show to start. He thought back to how he got into this position. He shivered as he remembered how he’d felt during that November afternoon. Reaching rock bottom didn’t even come close to describing the hole of depression he’d fallen into… And then he’d jumped.



James recalled waking up in a Type 2 “Roc,” the shuttles used by the AI-driven nation. A distinctly feminine, but obviously inhuman voice came through the speakers and told him to remain calm, they’d be docking momentarily. He remembered feeling an irrational fear –given that he’d just tried to kill himself. The voice almost certainly belonged to the infamous Pandora, the artificial intelligence that worked from the shadows to essentially control the world. There was even a church that had been founded in her name.



When he left the shuttle, he was startled to see he was in a hangar bay easily twice the size of the one on his last home, a TDF Dragon-class assault carrier. A massive flag dominated the raised space against one bulkhead. It depicted the Greek goddess of Victory, a sword pointed low in her right hand, an eagle perched atop her left shoulder. She wore a blood red cloak and a revealing black toga of a style worn by mourners. Finally, she was framed by the black feathered wings of a fallen angel.



She had a chilling expression on her face, the artist managing to capture a pain and determination that seemed to reach out and touch his soul. His hand came up instinctively to salute the flag as he came ‘aboard.’ James heard an amused voice to his left say, “You’ll do.” Turning, he saw a pretty young girl in a dress uniform wearing black shoulder boards with gold lion heads embossed on them. She held a clipboard and was smiling at him, obviously waiting for his arrival.



Abruptly, she turned and began walking towards a hatch. James hurried to catch up, still trying to figure out what was going on. She led them through another hatch into an area James clearly recognized as a hangout for fighter jocks. The girl turned and handed him a tablet. “Keep it with you at all times. You are assigned a room on Deck -26, not that you’ll use it much in the coming weeks.”



James made to interrupt, trying to make sense of all this. She ignored him and went on, “You’re assigned to Commander Cho’s flight group. You’ll retain the rank you had in the Terran Defense Force — minus the court-martial, of course. We tend to take a dim view on incompetence here.” He helplessly tried to open his mouth and make something come out. “Cho’s good,” she said. “He’ll lock you in a flight simulator for a few days to get you up to speed and then he’ll do it again just to make sure.” She sighed. “Questions?”



“Wh- Why me?” he managed to ask. “How?”



She frowned at him. “We like your work. Anyone that’s that proficient in killing is too valuable to waste in this day and age. As for how… do you really need to ask?”



Not all that enthused about being praised for his ability to take lives, he opened his mouth to argue, and then closed it again, doubting it was worth the effort. “What about the TDF? I’m still on contract…”



She gave a snort. “You don’t need to worry about the paperwork, if that’s what you mean. As for your loyalties… You’re dead. You’re only experiencing this at all because we intervened. You’re ours now,” she said in a voice that chilled him with its finality. “All you need to concern yourself with is how best to serve Michael.” She gave him a piercing look that said there was no other option.



At a loss for how to take that, he finally asked, “Who are you?”



“Stacey Whitmore,” she answered with a grin, “main communications officer.” She paused. “Used to be Ensign Whitmore, but Michael didn’t like the idea of people thinking they could order me around.”



James gaped. “What’s the daughter of the former president doing giving me a tour?” he asked, shocked that this day could get any stranger.



A sly smirk crossed her features. “My sister has taken an interest in you,” she admitted mysteriously. “I feel I should be kept informed.” As she walked off, she called over her shoulder, “Welcome to the Intrepid.”



James came back to himself as Commander Cho spoke over the radio, “Wake up, people, It looks like the slugs finally decided to grace us with their presence. ETA is twenty minutes according to the probes. Remember, stick to your assigned destroyers. Make sure nothing gets through their line to the capital ships. For the Intrepid!” his last words were echoed back over the radio by all the members of the flight group.



* * * * *



Michael sat in the backseat of the modified fighter, watching the massive B’Amuf fleet appear on his screen. The numbers were staggering, especially when the carriers began spewing attack craft. He let out a relieved breath when he saw they were staying together in a closed formation. “They’re entering the trap,” Kat observed gleefully from the front seat. Michael smiled at her eagerness. His lover was a bloodthirsty devil that was at home in the killing fields.



He narrowed his eyes as he looked down at his screen and said, “Pan, what do you make of those strange ships towards the back?”



“I don’t know, master. According to the B’Amuf systems I’ve managed to infiltrate, that is where the commanders reside, but their ships have actually managed to resist me entry,” her voice said in an annoyed tone. “There’s something about their technology that’s decidedly not B’Amuf.” Michael felt a prickle of unease as he was faced with the unexpected, but shrugged it off. It didn’t really change anything at this point.



* * * * *



The Sensor Manager turned and told the B’Amuf Fleet Master, “We have an alert that popped up about an asteroid storm that will cross our path in three sveds.”



The Fleet Master glanced down at his readout. “That is when we’ll be traversing a known asteroid belt. The storm has been recorded and accounted for. Can we blast it to dust and still maintain our approach speed?”



The Sensor Manager looked doubtful. “Some of the rocks are a good eight or nine tregs in length. We might be able to get them all in a single barrage if we lined our ships up… but in this formation?” he made a negative gesture. “It’s not very likely.”

The Fleet Master sighed impatiently at the delay. “Very well,” he grumbled, making notations on his display. “Open up the ranks here, here, and here… Let the rocks fly through and then get back into formation again. Tell the ships that anyone who doesn’t move fast enough will be fed to the Rha’kovsk.” Going back to watching the assembled fleet of this primitive race, he wondered who was responsible for helping them achieve such a feat. They had made many enemies throughout the galaxy. Perhaps the Rhemish or the Laksurcians could have been responsible. He supposed those pesky traders could have managed it as well…



As the asteroids neared the ships, the Sensor Manager frowned at his display. “I’m getting some odd readings about their composition. There are trace elements that faintly show up beneath the surface. I think-”



He stopped as alarm spread throughout the B’Amuf fleet like wildfire. The asteroids had suddenly accelerated madly, moving onto ballistic trajectories towards the unsuspecting ships. The B’Amuf ships all along their line began to open fire, but the incoming projectiles were already inside their formation. Many rocks split apart and began opening fire, others simply found a capital ship and attempted to ram it.



The sudden ferocity that ships began dying with caused fear and surprise to radiate through the B’Amuf as they were caught flat-footed. The attack was all the more devastating and psychologically traumatizing when they realized just how destructive the Terran nukes packed into the rocks were. At last, the rocks were expended and they managed to make it through the asteroid belt, leaving hundreds of hulks behind. However, the real damage was that their formation was now in complete disarray.



Wanting to capitalize on this, Michael had sent forth an expendable force of AI-controlled ships, like the peasants that had been sent before the knights in the Middle Ages to soften up the enemy. Following this force, the TDF had sent thousands of missiles that would hopefully be covered until they could reach their targets. The B’Amuf were so preoccupied by this surprise offensive, hardly any of them noticed the Terran fleet splitting into two ominous prongs.



The expendable force finally closed and began pouring light blue pulses of plasma onto their targets, their ion cannons firing full bore, knowing they wouldn’t survive for long. Ships on both sides exploded. The B’Amuf attack craft weren’t used to fighting anything larger than a fighter and thousands were shredded before multiple capital ships could concentrate their beams and get through the shields of the oncoming ships.



* * * * *



The sensor officer aboard the Intrepid intoned, “twenty-two thousand kilometers until enemy contact at the forward lines… twenty-one thousand… twenty…”



“Start the weave,” Aurora ordered. All along their line, dreadnoughts began to move, exchanging places with those behind the front ranks. This was to allow their shields time to recover and would ensure they wouldn’t be exposed for more than thirty seconds.



Battlecruisers supported individual dreadnoughts, switching places with each other. Destroyers would field enemy fire without exposing themselves -overlapped by the bigger ships’ shields- and fighters would fill in the gaps and watch for enemy attack craft. The formation was pulled off with a machine-like efficiency that was impressive to behold.



The Council’s attack prong was much different. For one, they had a great reliance on missile technology and released them by the hundreds of thousands, trying to simply overwhelm the oncoming B’Amuf ships. Their fighters actually acted as mules, releasing their payloads and then returning to their carriers to rearm. They didn’t use dreadnoughts or battlecruisers, but battleships that tried to incorporate the armor of the former with the speed of the latter. The battleships would bear the brunt of the B’Amuf line while the destroyers, fighters, and their attached carriers would remain behind them and unload their missiles unhindered.



Finally, the organized Terran death machine crashed into the far larger but disorganized B’Amuf fleet. Michael knew the math said their shields ought to hold, but at magnitudes of this scale, that didn’t mean much. If 5,000 B’Amuf rays all hit a dreadnought at once, it was going down no matter how much armor and shielding they’d provided.



All along the human fronts, ships began exploding as their shields were overwhelmed. Michael noticed the weave helped their chances of survivability, but in many cases thirty seconds was still too long an amount of exposure. He knew that if the B’Amuf formation hadn’t been in chaos, they would have been easily overwhelmed by sheer numbers.



And then they were among the B’Amuf shuttlecraft and Kat was flying like a demon, Michael’s personal guard struggling to keep up. As he was assaulted by g-forces, he tried to pay attention to their lines and reinforce points before they could collapse. Onboard the Intrepid, scores of tacticians did the same with capital ships, operating terminals on the lower level of the bridge. Pandora struggled to handle the math portion involved in carrying out their decisions.



After a half hour of fighting, clear distinctions between their forces became obvious. Every time the AI ships would retreat into the weave, the B’Amuf ships would follow and then become quickly enveloped by the ships that were coming up to replace them. This formed a very effective grinder that was chewing through the B’Amuf forces, actually requiring them to pull forces away from the Council’s side to face them.



Having identified Michael’s flagship, the B’Amuf would make suicide runs through their lines to try and take out the Intrepid. As the largest ship in the area by far, it was also the most capable. Not only did its rail guns bite into the enemy ships at an extreme range more than three times what the B’Amuf ships were capable of, but the oncoming vessels were absolutely shredded when under the full assault of the ion cannons.



No ship was able to come close to damaging the Intrepid as it had five shields that shut off before they overloaded. In other words, if the enemy ships took twenty seconds to break through one shield and another twenty to break through the next, before they could breach the third shield the first would reactivate and they’d need to do it all over again. They’d need to pour an insane amount of fire all at once to even think about getting through the shields. The Intrepid still had problems with ships trying to ram it though, and the crews worked feverishly to make sure that didn’t happen.



“Master,” Pandora informed him, sounding strained. “The Council’s line is about to collapse. Their missiles are being negated by the tens of thousands of attack craft, while the battleships have to concentrate on all those individual swarms instead of the B’Amuf capital ships.



Michael grimaced and made some notations on his pad. “Reinforce them with our reserves in Quadrant II and tell whatever idiot is in charge of their destroyers to move them up to support the battleships. They must be about empty of missiles anyway and they can use their cannons to handle the attack craft.”



“Yes, master,” she responded, as if simply communicating was taking a toll on her. Just then, the strange B’Amuf ships in the back of the formation moved up. Four large ships formed a diamond with the B’Amuf flagship behind them. Between the four, there began to radiate a massive ball of energy that measured too high for their instruments to read.



“They seem to be building up a tremendous amount of kinetic force,” Pandora exclaimed, sounding alarmed. “If they release that, I don’t think we have a shield that can stand up to it. Luckily, I don’t think they can fire it very far, so-”



Suddenly the ship in the rear fired a beam into the ball of energy and the four ships that made up the diamond exploded. From that, a beam of pure energy miles wide shot out on a direct path towards the Intrepid. They apparently figured it was worth the sacrifice to destroy the flagship of the force that was giving them so much trouble. Michael frantically made some calculations. Fifty seconds for the Intrepid to see it, another ten to be able to make any noticeable change in direction…



Pandora answered for him, sounding resigned. “Not enough time. I’ve sent the override orders on a tight beam for them to take the most effective evasive movements, but it will still hit them. They planned it perfectly to aim right where the Intrepid was going to be next in the weave. We were too predictable.”



Michael began moving AI-controlled ships in between the beam and the Intrepid anyway, even though all of his readings said they’d only be torn to pieces. He felt fear for his loved ones and desperately stamped down on it before it could turn into hopelessness. “Back to the Intrepid,” he ordered Kat. The beam was actually faster than them, but they had less distance to travel. Kat looked grim, but did as he asked.



* * * * *



“Good one, Reaper,” Commander Cho congratulated him as he racked up another kill. “I think that just made you a ‘real’ Ace.



James smiled and shook his head. He looked over to see how their counterparts were doing and grimaced as he saw the fighters belonging to the Council’s military used to ferry missiles. “What a waste,” he muttered. The tactic made sense before the lines closed… but to do that while the fighting was going on? Who was in command over there? He was once again thankful that he’d gotten out.



Then a beam of energy blinked onto his screen and he stared in horror at what he was seeing. It was streaking towards his new home and he felt a brief prickle of hatred that it was going to be destroyed before he’d even gotten a chance to visit the beach area he’d heard so much about. Not one to hesitate long, he broke rank and flew at the approaching line of energy, doing rough calculations in his head. He really wished he’d paid more attention in his physics courses…



Thinking fast, he knew he had ten drones. He also knew that if he overloaded their reactors they could create a much greater explosion than any sort of missile. He was well aware that he couldn’t hit the beam straight on as it wouldn’t have any effect. However… He jerked his fighter on a parallel course and began giving instructions to the drones. One by one they sped off and exploded at precise points along the line at a distance, but close enough that the resulting shockwaves would blow into the beam. At first, it didn’t appear to have any effect, but as he watched his readings, they showed the trajectory of the beam had changed by a few percentages of a degree.



As he continued to send out drones, his heart sank as he realized he needed one more drone than he had. James sighed and looked at the picture of him and three friends, all of which were dead now. He touched the laminated material and smiled, knowing he’d join them soon. He did, after all, have one more reactor he could use. He accelerated…



* * * * *



“Catch him!” Michael shouted to Pandora. They’d reached the beam –or rather it had reached them, and they were able to observe what James was doing. Pandora yanked his fighter back, saving the young Lieutenant yet again, and Kat released two drones to hit the beam at the last possible point they had available to them to direct it away from its planned course.



The beam screamed past the Intrepid, actually scorching some of the plating and causing the ship to shudder mildly from both the contact and the fact that the beam had cut through all five shields like a warm knife through butter. The nanites worked furiously to reform the damaged layer of ionized metal. A white-knuckled Aurora let out a relieved breath. She turned to her pad and reserved a place at the officer’s bar, knowing tonight would see it packed and then some.



All throughout the fleet, cheers rang out from the reinvigorated defenders and the AI ships slammed back into the B’Amuf lines with a vengeance that bespoke their fury. “Who was that?” Michael demanded.



“The pilot I told you about,” Pandora replied with no small amount of satisfaction. Michael nodded, not nearly as surprised as she might have thought. He’d come to trust her insight more than his own over the years.



“We’ll just have to find some way to reward him…” he thought aloud.



Kat listened to what he had in mind and burst out laughing, “That’s not a reward, that’s a punishment.” Michael just grinned unrepentantly.



An hour later, there was a noticeable tension in the air as both lines slugged it out, neither side seeming to give any ground. Michael was more perceptive however, and he recognized the shift in the B’Amuf ranks. If they could push them now, their lines would fold. He leaned back in his chair and told Pandora, “Release the Phoenix.”



* * * * *



The Fleet Master narrowed his four eyes in confusion as he saw a change in the line of their enemy. ‘Could they finally be weakening?’ he thought, more hopeful than he wanted to admit. These humans had proven themselves to be far more resistant than anyone had predicted. Suddenly a human craft zipped past the viewport and he laughed at the size of it. How did they expect to damage them with something barely twice the length and width as he was tall? He didn’t even see a shield on it. More flew past the viewport.



Slowly, he stopped smiling as dozens turned to hundreds, hundreds turned to thousands, and thousands became hundreds of thousands of small flyers. Soon his entire ship and those around him were fully encompassed by the tiny attack craft, their light blue balls adding up terrifyingly fast. He did some quick calculations and realized that just like that, it was over. He didn’t have time to retreat and he could not be supported as those closest to him were in the same predicament. He sent out an order for those ships under attack to self-destruct, knowing the ensuing blast would almost certainly take all these pests with them.



* * * * *



All across the battlefield, everyone watched as a good chunk of the B’Amuf fleet facing Michael’s line lit up suddenly as over a hundred capital ships exploded at once. Fully expecting that to be the end of it, they went back to fighting. They were all jarred from whatever they were doing as a keening, ear-piercing wail was blasted out of every speaker in all three fleets of ships as well as those on Earth and Lunar Base.



Every screen and display that Pandora had managed to hack showed the blast area, littered with melted hulks. Out of the destroyed mass of ships exploded millions of tiny craft that began reforming themselves out of the metal using nanites. These craft came together in a formation depicting a giant bird of prey that looked like it was on fire as they blasted continuous red beams at the B’Amuf line.



The alien ships desperately fired back into the mass of ships with no observable effect. Those attack craft that were hit were replaced by others and the damaged ships simply reformed and trailed after the formation, making it seem as if the bird had a long glowing tail. The Phoenix simply ‘ate’ ships –completely engulfing them and overwhelming their shields. It traveled along the line leaving behind nothing but death.



As the bird flapped its wings, the horrible haunting sound chilled its listeners. In his fighter, Michael waved his hands around like a conductor as another hair-raising banshee shriek pierced the air in the cockpit. The B’Amuf, unable to turn the sound off or even lower the volume, felt their fear mount as the approaching swarm neared their ships. Gradually they turned and fled in ones and twos. Soon, there were hundreds of B’Amuf ships fleeing and the lines collapsed, the Phoenix pursuing them relentlessly.



Still, it didn’t really register for the humans that they had won, so stunned were they by the sound and the frightening display of destruction. Michael allowed himself a self-satisfied smile. The small ships really weren’t all that difficult to counter if the opponents kept their heads and used coordinated barrages. But then, like the Draco, the real value was the psychological effect they had.



The sound in his cockpit was muted as Pandora spoke, “Master, it seems someone onboard the Intrepid tried to send data on some of our weapons and shield capabilities to the TDF flagship. I managed to isolate the feed and prevent a leak. Stacey tracked down the operative and ordered Marcus to take her into custody. Unfortunately, because the feed was suddenly cut off, it is probable that the Council’s Intelligence Agency knows we now have one of theirs.



Michael shrugged. “I don’t really have the patience to feed them fake information anyway. Very well, I’ll see to it when I get back.”



Kat piped up with, “Was the operative male or female?”



“Female,” Pandora replied in an amused voice.



“Is she hot?” Kat asked, ignoring Michael’s groan.



“I don’t think I can objectively say,” Pandora evaded smugly.



“What do you think?” Kat asked, directing her question to Michael.



He sighed. “I’m not too impressed that she would think to do this in the middle of a battle. Technically, she jeopardized billions of lives… and for what exactly? A promotion?”



Kat scoffed, “Quit making it sound so sinister. She was just doing her job and this was the best chance she had at pulling it off. You’re making it sound like she tried to upload a virus when we were at our most vulnerable or something.”



Michael chuckled, “How ’bout I just let you ‘interrogate’ her and then you don’t have to convince me one way or the other…”



Kat brightened and she started to get wet thinking of all the devices she might get a chance to use. “I can do anything to her?” she asked, sounding hopeful.



“So long as I get to watch,” Michael smirked. Finally, as the Phoenix traveled beyond the orbital plane of Mars, the sound died down (for the humans anyway).



On his display, Admiral Johnson appeared shouting, “What the hell was that? What do you think you’re trying to pull here? How dare you jeopardize our communications with that- that-”



He was interrupted as Vice Admiral Song came on and without formality said, “I think if you send your division furthest to your left now you can catch the fleeing ships. They seem to be running back towards where they came into the solar system which isn’t the most efficient route out.”



Michael looked at the calculations and nodded his head, impressed that he’d thought of that. “It’s a good plan, but they’ll be taken care,” he said enigmatically. In fact, even without the plan that was in place or Song’s strategy, his ships’ superluminal capabilities were better than that of the B’Amuf. They couldn’t outrun his forces if it came to that. Vice Admiral Song narrowed his eyes, but accepted that there was nothing he could do.



A set of linked probes was set up between the Intrepid and Earth. As he neared the Intrepid, the Council tuned in, their delayed image showing up next to those of Johnson’s and Song’s. The string reminded him of the early chat rooms he’d used when talking to hackers in other countries. There was often a delay between the time you posted and the time they saw the message and it added an extra challenge in communication.



Johnson’s angry blustering filtered in for all to hear. “I want to know what the hell you were trying to accomplish with that stunt!” he roared. Nothing fuels anger like fear and the admiral didn’t want to admit just how much the tormented melody had affected him.



Michael glanced at the red-faced image and cocked his head. “Wasn’t it obvious?” he wondered aloud. “I was making a statement.” Admiral Johnson’s eyes just about popped out of his head and his image faded as Pandora cut his transmission. The Council and the Vice Admiral remained silent. They had been become used to Michael’s blunt manner so him coming out and saying that the Phoenix was every bit as much for their benefit as it was the B’Amuf’s wasn’t all that surprising. He didn’t try to hide what would happen if anyone went against him and just like any other pre-invasion superpower, every once and awhile he needed to flex his muscles to remind others that they needed to toe the line.

On their screens, they could see the fleeing B’Amuf fleet that was still being pursued by the Phoenix just about to cross Jupiter. They had actually altered their course slightly to reach it, desperate to put something in between them and the frightening flaming ships. The Council let out a gasp as ships exploded out from within the gas giant’s atmosphere. Mara’s mercenaries, backed by hundreds of AI-controlled vessels, had been reinforced to withstand the pressure required to lie in wait twenty miles into the planet –enough so that they wouldn’t show up on sensors, but not so far as to be assaulted by the incredible storms that wracked the planet.



Michael was impressed with her decision to wait to attack, originally thinking they’d try and engage the rear of the B’Amuf formation when they had been occupied. “Playing anvil to our hammer,” the Council heard him muse aloud. The timing was incredible considering they were essentially blind in there, requiring them to rely on a string of sensor buoys to know when to strike.



They watched the events that had already happened, amazed to see the smaller force charge directly at the far larger –albeit piecemeal- force. Capping their spear with heavily armored AI-controlled ships, they broke through the line and spread, causing the already terrified B’Amuf to flee in all directions and tearing through any pockets of ships that had remained together which might have construed a coherent fighting force.



Michael’s forces in the Kuiper Belt that had been hidden when he pulled back his factories began flooding out of the mass of asteroids to herd the defeated ships. He was glad, but interested, to note that none of the B’Amuf tried to surrender. Glad, because he didn’t really know what he’d do if they had. All of their intelligence reports had said they’d never suffered such an overwhelming defeat and they were probably too shell shocked to react properly. He sighed. Or perhaps surrender simply wasn’t done in their culture. Whatever the case was, this chapter of the war was over.



“When do you leave?” Councilman Whitmore asked?



Michael’s eyes unfocused as he had a conversation with Pandora. ‘Are you sure about the numbers?’ he asked her.



‘Of course, master,’ came the reply.



He turned to the Council and shrugged. “Change of plans,” he said. “Pan has gotten a better idea of what the situation is at their home worlds from hacking these ships and has created a model that my experts are looking at.” The Council appeared interested at this development. Raising a hand, Michael explained, “Basically, the main power base of the B’Amuf is no longer on their governing world. It is now held among the various vassals. If we go and overthrow the primary ruling bodies and their military forces on those few planets, we’ll knock out at most two factions leaving dozens left in other systems the B’Amuf control.”



“Additionally,” he went on, ignoring the Council’s surprised looks. “There are approximately seventy billion citizens on their largest world. We simply wouldn’t be able to hold what we take.” His listeners looked shocked at the number. Michael sighed. “Looking back on our history –and American history in particular, you might recognize the situation we find ourselves in as we’ve been here –standing on a precipice- many times before.”



“When our forces get mobilized and mechanized we are unstoppable.” He paused. “But our endgame absolutely sucks. There are those on Earth right now who think we’ve won and this is all over. They want nothing more than to go back to their normal lives and lick their wounds and forget the invasion ever happened. They don’t care about the reconstruction, what the future holds, or what it might take to pacify a hostile race that –given enough time- will attack again. The simple truth of the matter is that if we go in guns blazing and try and force ourselves on a civilization that numbers a quarter trillion, we ‘will’ fail.”



The Council looked at each other and finally the Councilwoman from India asked, “So what do we do?”



Michael leaned back in his char and pulled up the populations of the subjugated worlds on their screen. “We have an untapped resource to exploit. The 23 worlds have five times the population of the B’Amuf and they’re likely to side with us. If you look at Vietnam, Iraq, just about every foreign war the US has ever fought… if we had gotten the full support of the locals, we’d have been in and out inside of a week.”



“However,” he continued, “because we allowed the enemy to entrench themselves on their home terrain, with each one we killed creating a martyr, and every instance of collateral damage inciting the natives, they became drawn-out, costly affairs and by the end of them, no one even remembers what we were fighting for.”



“The plan,” he told them, folding his hands, “while still being modified, is to conquer a B’Amuf vassal state and liberate the enslaved populations under them, letting them take care of the administrative details of keeping the B’Amuf pacified. We give the defeated races the ability to enforce their policy on the B’Amuf –though not so much that they can be a threat to us, of course.”



The Chinese councilman nodded. “Yes, I understand. We let the natives do the work. It is like when my country would go out to poor nations and offer to build them a thousand schools and say all we want in return is drilling and mining rights, and everything we find they get to keep half of. Everyone is happy and we don’t waste money or manpower fighting them for resources. We offer to liberate the people on the enslaved planets –which we were going to do anyway- and they fight our war for us.”



The British councilmember began to nod. “Hell, it’s almost like the privateers my country used back in the day… We give them the ability to fight and they’ll take the cost unto themselves. We’ll essentially be creating free militias wherever we go.”



“Colonialism is dead,” the French councilman agreed. “I think all of us have learned that free trade will benefit us much better in the long run.”



The Council began nodding their heads, seeing the possibilities for not only maintaining the territory they captured, but the trade and foreign relations benefits that would no doubt emerge as a result. Michael highlighted eight distinct regions of B’Amuf controlled space. “These three,” he said, indicating those he meant, “are home to the most powerful vassals and will likely be the first ones we hit. The others are much less of a threat or their areas contain multiple warlords vying for control.”



He blew out his breath and said, “We’ll hit ‘em hard; destroying the chains of bondage and arming the locals, then moving on to the next area… again and again… until we reach the home worlds that will, by that time, be unsupported. I’ll let you know when we have a concrete plan. As for when we leave, we’ve been meaning to do some modifications to the Intrepid anyway.”



He explained, “Rin believes we can add another hangar that would be able to hold four human-operated destroyers without sacrificing structural integrity. These would be invaluable in deploying in a system to control multiple points.” Takeshi beamed in pride to know his daughter was doing well on the Intrepid and had finally found a place where her intelligence was being utilized and appreciated. “Call it just after Christmas as a tentative leave date.”



The Council nodded, glad to have this issue resolved and at the likelihood of gaining a host of loyal allies to help them navigate this dangerous new environment they found themselves thrust in. Councilman Whitmore concluded, “We’ll let Admiral Johnson know. He’ll have to decide which ships are best suited to go with y-”



“I want Johnson gone,” Michael interrupted.



The Russian councilmember turned to Councilman Whitmore and smiled triumphantly, “Heh. I tell you this, no?”



A pained expression crossed Councilman Whitmore’s face. “It’s not that easy, Michael. He-”



“I put you into power so you could get stuff done,” Michael intoned, emotionless, matter-of-fact; reminding them that in the grand scheme of things, they were no more than chess pieces. “There is no senate to veto your decisions. There is no reelection to put pressure on you one way or another. It’s your job to make the hard decisions now.”



“He has considerable support with-” Councilman Whitmore tried to explain.



Michael’s gaze turned hard as he declared, “If you don’t get rid of him, I will.”



“Now le- let’s just slow down and talk this out,” Councilman Whitmore advised, a panicked note creeping into his voice.



“Enough,” Michael declared. “I will not leave Earth’s defense in the hands of an incompetent commander.” Cocking his head to the side, Michael spoke in a quiet but firm voice, “Maybe I should clarify what my role is in this little relationship of ours. I exist outside the government so that I can intervene when you fail to make the right decision due to public pressure, greed, or whatever the case may be. People will blame me and not you.”



He leaned towards the screen and went on, “If you’re replacements end up driving the world into the ground, I’ll be there to fix it. If you screw up the trade agreements and end up placing Earth in insurmountable debt, I will be there to remove whoever is responsible and then fight off whatever aliens come to try and make Terrans indentured servants. I will be the one who safeguards the planet and its inhabitants, even from themselves -even, when they don’t want my protection anymore and curse my name into oblivion.”



The tension in the air rose to an almost unbearable degree as the Council took in his words. In the ensuing silence, Michael left them with, “This won’t be the last time we disagree on something. For now, all you have to decide is if you’re better off removing the admiral publicly, or if you’d rather wake up one morning to find that he’s suddenly disappeared.”



The Council cast each other nervous glances and signed off. Vice Admiral Song remained, watching Michael carefully. “I know you have my daughter,” the man finally told him quietly. “I could say that she served in the only capacity they would allow, but that’s not the point. Is she alright?” At Michael’s silence, he exploded. “Is she alive?” he demanded in a hoarse voice. Michael finally looked directly at him and nodded, cutting the transmission.



He leaned back and sighed. Kat threaded her hand back and gripped his, giving him a reassuring squeeze.



* * * * *



Lt Song sat in a metal cell, bare except for the bench on which she rested, contemplating her fate. She still didn’t know how she’d been caught, but one minute she’d been in contact with her handler on a remote terminal and the next troopers were rushing the room and she’d been shocked into unconsciousness. She sighed, knowing what the Council would do if they caught one of theirs giving away information. They had actually reinstated the death penalty for treason.



She could only imagine what an entity like the one that’d captured her would do with no checks and balances and a reputation for zero tolerance. The cell door opened abruptly and she was startled when a young Asian girl skipped –actually skipped- into the cell. She sat down next to her and rested her head on her shoulder without a care in the world.



Lt Song glanced around with wide eyes as the door shut again. ‘Where were the armored troopers? Where were the guard bots? Who was going to ensure the dangerous infiltrator didn’t hurt the precious, innocent-looking flower that had suddenly joined her company. The girl sighed and asked without preamble, “Are you a virgin?”



She sputtered in surprise, “N-No.” ‘What kind of absurd question was that?’ she thought to herself.



The girl looked disappointed at this answer and she wondered what the hell was going on. “That’s okay, I suppose…” the girl admitted. “Aurora wasn’t a virgin when she became a sister.” The way she said ‘sister’ made it sound like some sort of title she should be blessed to obtain.



Lt Song’s eyes boggled. ‘What is she talking about? Cap- Admiral Lindström?’ She tried to remember all the rumors she’d heard on the ship. She’d instantly dismissed them as nonsense. She faintly heard a clanging sound in the distance and her head shot up curiously. The cells in the brig were completely sealed; to the point that they could easily be used as sense deprivation chambers. The hatch in her cell hadn’t been locked and sealed when the girl had come through, she realized.



Deciding to risk it, she shifted her weight and then snaked her arm around the young girl’s head in a strong hold, pulling them to their feet. “Don’t do anything stupid and you might live through this,” she said, trying to sound threatening. The smaller girl simply laughed and faster than she could see, slammed an elbow into her midsection at the same time she locked her hand onto her wrist and dug into a pressure point. The young girl twisted around abruptly, still holding onto her wrist, and suddenly the lieutenant was pressed against the wall, her arm pinned behind her back.



The girl, who was certainly ‘not’ the delicate flower she’d thought, leaned in and giggled into her ear. Then she spanked her… hard. Backing away from her, the girl said in an amused voice, “Just where did you think you were going to go? Even if you had managed to make it to a shuttle or escape pod, do you really think you could have made the TDF line? Do you actually believe it would have mattered? Michael can reach anywhere…”



The bruised and winded Lieutenant slowly collapsed to the bench, wincing as her sore tush came into contact with the metal. As she registered the words, she realized she hadn’t been thinking. All she knew was that she was probably going to die and she’d rather fight than give in. She was astonished when the young girl suddenly sat next to her again and threw her arms around her in a hug as if nothing had happened. “It’s good that you’re feisty, though,” she heard. “Dejah loves to wrestle.”



Resting her head on the captured girl’s shoulder, she sighed. “My twin took a look at your work and was very impressed with what you managed to accomplish. She said if you had waited until we were back on Earth to send the data, you might have gotten away with it. As it was, nothing gets sent or received by signal that isn’t taken apart and analyzed. Of course… since Pan is monitoring the Council’s intelligence traffic, we would have found out anyway.



The Lieutenant looked alarmed at this. ‘They already managed to hack into my files?’ she wondered. Guessing that it really didn’t matter at this point she admitted, “We’re leaving for the home worlds as soon as the cleanup is done. There wouldn’t have been an opportunity for me to send a secure transfer.”



“Nu- -uh,” the girl told her cheekily. “Plans have changed. Michael told the Council we’re not leaving for another two weeks…” Lieutenant Song’s eyes widened in surprise at that. And what did she mean that Michael had ‘told’ the Council? Just how much pull did he have…



The hatch opened revealing Michael and Kat. The girl bounced to her feet and snuggled into his arms. He accepted her embrace and a hand slid down to cup her tight buns. “How’s our guest doing, Aki?”



Aki beamed and wiggled her ass into his palm. “She’s a fighter. Can we keep her?” she begged, pouting, as if she was asking to take in a stray kitten.



‘No way…’ Lt Song thought. ‘The rumors are all true.’ Her mind struggled to grasp how he could have so many different women. If what she’d heard was correct, he was involved with two trillionaire heiresses, the daughter of a councilman, a strong-willed American who most people were afraid of, a respected and distinguished captain of proud Nordic descent, and to top it all off, an alien who just so happened to be the daughter of the leader of the refugee delegation.



She had scoffed when she’d first heard this. They weren’t Mormons or Muslims. They didn’t grow up in a society where that kind of thing was accepted. There was no way in hell those women should have all agreed to share their lover. Unwittingly, she actually felt a spark of sexual curiosity as she wondered what he must be like to keep so many women satisfied.



Michael chuckled and replied, “I suppose that would depend on her.” Turning his attention to their captive he said, “So… Song Sun Mi –originally a captain in the People’s Republic. How is it that our records show you as Korean-American Nara Vong, an IT systems specialist? We already know how you fudged the facial records, but I’m certain we required a blood test when you joined.”



Sun Mi felt full-blown panic as she realized they knew who she was. ‘No, no, no,’ she thought in horror. ‘If he has as much power as everyone says, my father…’ When Michael raised an eyebrow and waited, she pulled out the tiny skin-colored patch from underneath her blouse as if in a daze and tossed it to him.



Michael felt the squishy fingernail-sized attachment and remarked, “Now ‘this’ is clever.” He squeezed it lightly. “Not much blood in it, but then you really only need a drop to fool a test.” He turned to Kat to show it to her.



Sun Mi whispered hoarsely, “What’s going to happen to my father?”



Turning back, Michael frowned. “Now that’s not very good anti-interrogation techniques to just blurt out your weakness to your captors. I expected better from a spook.” He sighed. “As for your father… I’m going to push for him to replace Admiral Johnson as head of the TDF, though it looks like legislation is being passed to turn the TDF into something similar to the National Guard, so he’ll actually be in charge of whatever the Council decides to call their overall military branch.



Sun Mi’s eyes went wide at this. “What I think you should be more concerned about,” he went on, “is what’s going to happen to ‘you.’” Kat stepped forward and gave her a predatory look. Michael said, “A sane person would keep you alive so as not to make a very powerful enemy. An even saner person would hold you hostage so said powerful person does whatever they want.”



He looked down at her and cocked his head, speaking softly, “Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking I’m a sane person, Miss Song… There is only one reason I haven’t vented you out the airlock yet and that’s because my girls think you might prove to be entertaining. ” With that, he turned and walked out of the cell, his girls trailing behind him, Aki throwing her a wink and a lusty smile before she left. The hatch whooshed closed and she heard the distinct sound of the lock cycling. Sun Mi let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. She shivered, still able to see the look in his eyes, knowing he meant every word.



Aki pouted on the way to their suite. “Did you have to scare her so much?” she complained. “I want another sister.”



Michael chuckled and wrapped an arm around her. “It’s important for her to learn that we aren’t the good guys before she gets too invested. Besides, when Kat is pulling orgasm after orgasm out of her and she begs her to stop, do you actually think there’s a chance Kat will listen?” Aki didn’t need to think about it, she simply shook her head. “Well, this way she won’t feel betrayed,” he concluded. “We gave it to her straight. She knows that whatever we do to her, we could always have just killed her and been done with it…”



Aki nodded slowly. “I trust you, Michael.” Then she grinned. “At the very least we get a new pussy slave. I can’t wait to wrap my legs around her,” she giggled.



“Oh, really?” he asked in mock indignation. He reached down and threw the girl over his shoulder as they entered the lift. She squealed in protest, laughing at his antics. She struggled and kicked her legs as Kat began spanking her exposed bottom. “And just what about me?” he went on.

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