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Chapter 23 - The Adjudicator[]

Jupiter/Io Lagrange point
Sol Star System
Republic of the Sphere
Late 3159

The breakwave of an arriving Warship was unexpected.  This wasn't a cutter, it wasn't a corvette.  The ship that came through immediately announced its arrival-and intent, with a wave of missiles as it accelerated out of the gravity-neutral zone.

Within seconds, a second vessel did the same, followed by a third.

The Shadow Fleet here were still recovering from the EMP of the first arrival when missiles struck, ten megaton 'rock cracker' nuclear warheads atop White Shark bodies. They didn't need to have much fuel capacity once initial velocity was reached.  The HPG on Io barely activated before the shipyard it was attached to was converted into a very short term, miniature sun.

Explosion in Space

But the first ship was in range and could pick up the destination code and general vector of the squeal for help.

Within minutes, a second strike force was hitting Titan Yards.  Unlike the rather conventional destruction visited there by Stone's Coalition allies, the Battleship/Cruiser strike this time was only interested in destruction. Neutralization of the Mothball Fleet and the elimination of Sol's ability to build warships.

The third group passed into being in the La Grange of Luna, with similar targets and similar results.

Swarms of smaller ships were doing similar strikes throughout the system, hitting military targets throughout the solar system, sometimes from 'jump points' so small that the ships executing the attacks were breaking the six second barrier on jump points before moving to the next ultra-short-duration point.

The total time from start to finish for this was under ten minutes, and in most cases, defensive units didn't even have enough time to process it was happening, before the attacking forces vanished again, using LF batteries to make their escape almost as suddenly as they had arrived.

SDS reaction time was hampered by two things almost simultaneously;

1. The attackers came out of hyperspace using close approaches and reduced-duration points and had enough of an emergence wave shock to stun defensive sensors for several minutes.

2. It wasn't an invasion.  No visible attempt was made to land troops or take territory.

The first was a flaw that could maybe be corrected by building more mobile units with longer ranged sensors, but the second was more problematic. As it was a doctrinal issue dating all the way back to the Star League. Any large-scale attack should be followed by a landing force...and no landing force or invasion force was appearing.

Of course, building more mobile units is predicated on shipyards, and the shipyards of the Sol system capable of building compact cores or repairing warships had just been nuked into stellar dust and ionized particles.

For the first time in decades, planners in the Sol System felt real, gut-clenching fear.  The war wasn't over and yet they were under attack already. This time, the attackers were hitting strategic targets that would take years, or even decades to recover from the loss of.

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