War Child - Galactic Adventures Book Four
The galactic core, the ultimate prize.
Princess Mariko Mitsubi stood on the bridge of the battlecruiser and Armada flagship Yamato, gazing upon the galactic core through thousands of multisensory receptors funneled into her neuralink.
Soon, my child, Mariko said to the near-term fetus inside her, soon, the galactic core shall be yours!
No more wars, no more retreats.
An end to constant bickering between Empires, to the tides of conquering and capitulating, to treacherous dealings in stealth and poison, to whole worlds denuded to stamp out rebellious populations, their skies littered with the orbital detritus of defeated navies, thousands of years of civilization ending abruptly in sudden annihilation.
An end to two centuries of constant war.
I will bring war to an end, my child, Mariko told her unborn, her first-born daughter, her heir. Third in line for the Mitsubi Throne.
Mariko stood to inherit nearly a quarter of the Milky Way, eldest daughter of Fumiko Mitsubi, the Matriarch of the Mitsubi clan and Empress to their domains. The Mitsubi Empire ballooned across the Delta Quadrant, straddling most of the Norman Arm, the lower Scutum-Crux Arm, and the mid Carina-Sagittarius Arm, the largest Empire in the Milky Way.
But we'll always be vulnerable to the Empire that captures the galactic core, unless we capture it ourselves.
Mariko signaled through her neuralink to the armada behind her. Above, below, port and starboard, phalanxes of fighters, destroyers, and battleships edged forward until they came abreast her ship's position.
Below them, the Iberia outpost Tarifa lay quiescent at the rim, the blazing core nearly swallowing the puny base in light. Berthed at Tarifa was the Fourth Fleet of the Iberia Navy. After that, just two more outposts to conquer before the Mitsubi juggernaut swept away all resistance and dominated the galactic core, the ultimate prize.
They and their rivals had fought each other over this and similar installations since before history began. The Mitsubis, an ancient peoples, had pursued the claim for the galactic throne numerous times, proclaiming for centuries the mandate of heaven to rule the reachable universe, as they had since their origins on old Earth, over three thousand years before, on a sword-shaped set of islands called Japan. Like the islands, the sword-shaped galactic arm had become too small for their ambitions.
She who controls the core, Mariko thought, controls the galaxy!
Tarifa appeared incognizant that it lay naked to evisceration, the talons of the Mitsubi Armada poised to rake it apart. Monitored communications from the base evinced no alarm, and nearby bases, although parsecs away, showed no evidence of scrambling their defenses.
On the bridge, Mariko ordered her fighters forward, two lines each leaving the Armada branches and hurtling from four different directions at Tarifa, followed by smaller contingents of destroyers, her battleship held at bay for now.
If we destroy the Fourth Fleet and take Tarifa, then the core is nearly ours, Mariko thought, the display a forty-five degree surround in all directions, the neuralink brightening the area where she brought her attention. Sitting at battlestations around the arc behind her, her lieutenants held tactical links with their squadrons in the field, taking their orders from her through the neuralink.
Fighters converged on Tarifa, and the first pinpricks of light flared on its surface, eight squadrons strafing the base.
Mariko launched the battleships, leaving a reserve to defend the flagship Yamato.
Activity spiked on the monitored Iberian comchannels, fighters trying to scramble and base-mounted turrets coming to life. Eight lines of fighters swung back to strafe again, plums of smoke now billowing from multiple points. The destroyers turned parallel in unison and launched a barrage of broadsides just after the fighters cleared a second strafing run, and a half-dozen Iberian ships able to launch were pummeled to pieces.
“Destroyer launch from Tarifa!” called a lookout over the neuralink.
At her command, a battleship hurtled after it, the remaining five battleships continuing to hover outside the destroyer-held perimeter. The pursuing battleship launched multiple missiles en route, staged alternately with decoy confetti and intercept-avoidance devices.
A lone fighter dove for the base command compound and five emplacements blew it out of the sky, revealing their locations, and the next strafing run took out those emplacements while a destroyer followed them in and obliterated the compound in its first pass.
A cheer rose at its destruction, the happy neuralink chatter heartening Mariko.
The sound of victory, my child, Mariko said in her mind, even though no neuralink connected her with her fetus, which some mothers chose to install. Knowing they weren't victorious yet, Mariko brought the fighters in for another strafing, and launched another destroyer barrage.
The surface of the asteroid looked like a torch, roiling in smoke and flame, the image before Mariko a thrill to see.
“What in Izanami's name are you doing?” The face of her mother the Empress filled the neural viewer.
Mariko's heart sank. “Buddha curse you, Mother, not now!” And she shoved with all her mental might to block out her mother's neural connection.
But the neuralink between mother and daughter could not easily be put asunder. “Disobedient child, I told you not to attack now, not with my grandchild in your belly!”
“How often must I say it? That's the time it's least expected. Now get out of my mind so I can finish these Iberian scum! Out!”
And to Mariko's surprise, the Empress Fumiko Mitsubi withdrew.
Where the battleship had been was a fiery inferno.
Mariko found the Iberian destroyer that had bested the battleship, a midget-giant match-up it should never have won. It was now under full thrust right at the flagship Yamato, right at her.
Two battleships moved to intervene.
They dropped off the neuralink grid, their chatter silenced, their vid feeds dead.
“Com, what's happening?” she shouted.
“Signals disrupted, your Highness.”
Mariko wished they wouldn't call her that. “Why, blast it?!”
“I don't know, your Highness.”