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Authors: Christopher Nuttall

Tags: #science fiction, #military SF, #space opera, #space fleet, #galactic empire

The Shadow of Cincinnatus

The Shadow of Cincinnatus

The Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire
Book 2

Christopher Nuttall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight Times Books

Kingsport Tennessee

The Shadow of Cincinnatus

 

This is a work of fiction. All concepts, characters and events portrayed in this book are used fictitiously and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2014 Christopher G. Nuttall

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except brief extracts for the purpose of review, without the permission of the publisher and copyright owner.

 

 

Twilight Times Books

P O Box 3340

Kingsport TN 37664

http://twilighttimesbooks.com/

 

 

First Edition, November 2014

 

Cover art by Malcolm McClinton

 

Published in the United States of America.

 

Table of Contents
Prologue

From:
Meditations on Power: The Terran Federation, The Empire and Marius Drake
(4502 A.D)

What is power?

Some would say that power is the ability to shape events to your pleasing. Some would say that power is the ability to do things denied to other people. And some would say that power is the way to get what you want, when you want it, no matter what others might have to say about it. When asked to choose between sex and power, the cynic will always choose power.

Why? Because power can be used to obtain sex.

But power can also be used to obtain more power. This was certainly true of the Grand Senate of the Terran Federation. An august body, comprised of members who had practically inherited their seats, it reached for more and more power over the Outer Worlds and the Colonies. The Colonies rebelled, of course, but the Senate fought and won the Inheritance Wars, ending the threat of the Federation snapping in two. It should have been the end.

The Grand Senate grew lazy and complacent. It fought a pointless war, purely out of greed, with an alien race that ended up costing more blood and treasure than it had anticipated. It chose to ignore growing problems along the edge of explored space, secure in its power and position. But even the more paranoid members of the Grand Senate failed to realize that it was placing more and more power in the hands of its military leaders. One of them, Admiral Justinian, rebelled against the Federation, intent on claiming power for himself.

It should not have taken long for the Federation to crush the upstart. The Federation Navy outmassed the rebels by over a hundred to one. But other military commanders had rebelled, diverting the Federation’s forces, making the Grand Senate take steps to ensure that no future military commander could ever hope to gain enough power to challenge the Senate. And yet, their actions ensured that no quick and decisive war was possible. No Admiral dared take chances when his actions might be taken out of context and used against him. No General dared make plans of his own without fear of being accused of plotting a coup. The Grand Senate was effectively strangling its own ability to make war.

Eventually, Admiral Marius Drake – a hero of the early fighting – came to terms with the Grand Senate. He would marry into their ranks and defeat their enemies. This he did, leading the forces of the Federation to a stunning victory over Admiral Justinian. But the Grand Senate, no longer trusting him, chose to try to kill him. His best friend died saving his life.

And so Admiral Drake led his fleet against Earth, captured the Grand Senate and proclaimed himself Emperor.

Alas for Drake, he was about to discover the limits of power.

Chapter One

Garibaldi, Roman. One of the fastest-rising stars of the Federation Navy and a personal protégé of Admiral (later Emperor) Marius Drake. After his role in the failed peace mission to Admiral Justinian, Garibaldi was assigned to Fifth Fleet as her commanding officer...

-The Federation Navy in Retrospect, 4199

 

Hobson’s Choice, 4098

 

“You know,” Elf said, as she ran a hand through her short blonde hair, “this is the very definition of using a sledgehammer to crush a nut.”

Roman Garibaldi gave his friend, lover and ground-forces commander a mischievous look, using one hand to brush the brown hair out of his eyes as he looked up at the gathering fleet. It was smaller, in terms of numbers, than the giant fleets that had fought the Inheritance Wars, but it was an order of magnitude more deadly, the most powerful fleet assembled in the last decade of intermittent warfare. Calling the fleet a sledgehammer sent to crush a nut was a definite understatement.

“More like using a sledgehammer to crush an atom,” he said, after a moment. “Or slamming an entire asteroid into a planet to kill a single person. Or...”

Elf snorted, rudely. “Does it bother you?”

Roman shrugged, then shook his head. He’d been on the receiving end of superior firepower – vastly superior firepower – often enough to feel a certain kind of satisfaction at having superior firepower on his side for once. Maybe there were naval officers out there who liked the idea of a fair fight, of matching themselves against an enemy commander with equal strength, but it wasn’t a sentiment any sensible officer could allow himself in combat. Besides, the more firepower brought to the party, the smaller the chance of a real fight.

Not that they have much chance anyway
, he thought, with a tinge of amusement.
A handful of light cruisers would be more than enough to take the high orbitals of Hobson’s Choice
.

He looked up at the running lights of Fifth Fleet. It had only been a month since his most recent promotion and he couldn’t resist a thrill of delight at seeing so many ships under his command, although he knew he was far from the only young officer promoted into occupying a dead man’s shoes. The war with the rogue Admiral, Justinian, had been good for eliminating much of the dead weight in high-ranking positions, if nothing else. And yet, seeing so much responsibility resting on his shoulders worried him. He’d barely been a Captain long enough to grow accustomed to his ship before he’d been promoted to the flag deck.

“You’re thinking again,” Elf teased him. “It’s a terrible habit right now.”

“I know,” Roman said, gravely. “But I need to try to plan for everything.”

Elf tapped his shoulder. “You should know that isn’t possible,” she said, sternly. “All you can do is be prepared to adapt to change at a moment’s notice.”

Roman let out a sigh. “Yes,” he said. “But will there be any change here?”

“Probably not,” Elf said. “But we have been surprised before.”

“Yeah,” Roman drawled. “Better to be careful.”

He shrugged. Hobson’s Choice had been a thorn in the side of the Federation for years, ever since the world had been claimed by an eccentric who had thrown open the doors to anyone who wanted to operate outside the Federation’s gaze. Now it served as a clearing house for pirates, smugglers, slavers, rebels and all the others who were more than a little unwelcome on Federation worlds. A vast amount of bribes, paid out to senior officers and sector governors, had ensured that the world remained undisturbed by the Federation Navy. But now everything had changed. Hobson’s Choice was about to get a very unwelcome surprise.

His wristcom buzzed. “Admiral,” Flag Captain Scott Palter said, “the 143rd has just reported in. They’re ready to move.”

“Good,” Roman said. “Order the fleet to begin cloaking procedures. I’m on my way.”

“Good luck,” Elf said. She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, then headed to the hatch. “Leave some of them for us, will you?”

Roman watched her go, then looked back at the fleet. There was another reason for bringing the entire formation to Hobson’s Choice, even if it
was
a staggering level of overkill. Fifth Fleet had been put together in a hurry, from starships that had seen service in the recent war to new-build starships just out of the yards, with crews that had barely graduated from the academy. The mission would, he hoped, iron out any problems long before they ran into anything larger than a pirate ship or two. Even if the warlords were gone, there were plenty of other threats out there.

He smiled, then turned to walk through the hatch and down to CIC himself. It still astonished him that he’d been given command of so many ships, even if it was unlikely he’d ever command a ship personally again. That irked him, more than he cared to admit. He’d never expected to become a Commodore, not with his lack of connections. Starship command had seemed the highest achievable goal. And now he was a Commodore, holding down an Admiral’s billet. His family would be proud.

The hatch to the CIC opened up in front of him, revealing a handful of consoles, a large command chair and a giant holographic tank. Lights flickered and flared within the tank, dimming to grey as the ships went into cloak, each one tagged with the starship’s name and current status. The temptation to micromanage was almost overpowering, Roman had discovered, finally understanding why so many senior officers had issued so many unnecessary orders. One look was enough to tell him that Fifth Fleet’s formation looked a little ragged.

An officer with less experience of actual war-fighting would see that as a problem
, he thought, as he took his seat.
But anyone with any sense would know better
.

He looked up at the display, then glanced at Palter. They’d known each other since Roman had commanded
Midway
, where Palter had been his tactical officer. Thankfully, Palter had been available when Roman had been assigned to Fifth Fleet. A month in command hadn’t given him the time to get to know most of his officers, particularly as Fifth Fleet was still assembling. The Federation Navy might have expanded rapidly during the war, but it was still badly overstretched. Roman was surprised that so many starships had been assigned to the Rim.

But Admiral – Emperor – Drake fought here before the war
, Roman thought.
He felt a duty to do something about the chaos along the Rim
.

He took a breath. “Order the fleet to advance,” Roman said. “And prepare to spring our surprise.”

* * *

“The cargo is secure, sir.”

Captain Roger Loewi nodded, impatiently.
Hogshead
had been orbiting Hobson’s Choice for weeks, burning precious fuel, while her agents on the surface had been rounding up the cargo and lifting it to orbit. The crew had been growing increasingly unhappy, after discovering that they would neither be allowed to go down to the surface or play their games with the cargo. He’d had to face down two threats of mutiny and one crewman had actually managed to desert, although
he
was no loss. Somehow, slavers rarely attracted the best crews.

The cargo
, he thought, sourly. One hundred and fifty women, all young, all healthy enough to bear children for a hidden colony thousands of light years from Earth. The crew was already sniffing round the hold and, if it weren’t for the armed mercenaries guarding the hatches, he would have feared for their safety. For some absurd reason, the colonists wanted virgins. God knew it was hard enough to find virgins on Hobson’s Choice, let alone girls who had been captured by pirates and traded to slavers on the planet below. He cursed himself under his breath, then dismissed the thought. If he didn’t think of the slaves as cargo, he would go mad.

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