The book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 45

The only good thing about the extended range was that it gave them plenty of time to track the incoming shipkillers. A missile’s impeller wedge was hard to miss and impossible to disguise, and that was good, because the Manty missiles’ sheer closing velocity was going to make them copper-plated bitches to stop. There wasn’t going to be time for more than a single counter missile launch against each shipkiller, and anything the CMs missed was going to streak clear across the defensive basket and actually pass its target in only eight seconds. That meant their counter missiles needed the best targeting and tracking data they could possibly provide, because each laser cluster was going to have a maximum of one shot before the shipkillers overflew the squadron…and each battlecruiser could bring only sixteen clusters to bear.

“At least they’re going to be generating a lower Delta Vee for evasions than a Javelin could, Ma’am,” Tucker Kiernan murmured just loud enough for Dubroskaya to hear him. “That should help a little.”

“Something better,” Dubroskaya replied harshly, never looking away from the plot.

* * *

“Coming up on initial EW activation…now,” Abigail announced.

* * *

Three hundred and forty-five seconds after launch, thirty-five million kilometers downrange from HMS Tristram, the electronic warfare platforms seeded throughout DesRon 301’s lead missile salvo came to sudden life. They were carefully sequenced, the Dazzlers blowing holes in the Solarians’ tracking systems, blinding them with furious strobes of interference, one thin sliver of an instant before the Dragon’s Teeth spawned sudden shoals of false targets.

It came at the worst possible moment — just as they crossed the perimeter of Vice Admiral Dubroskaya’s counter missile envelope and half a heartbeat after the battlecruisers fired.

Fire control lost lock, throwing the CMs back onto their rudimentary seeking systems, but those onboard seekers had lost lock, as well. And when the Dazzlers faded, instead of a hundred and twenty incoming missiles, there were over five hundred. BatCruRon 491’s pathetic total of thirty-two counter missiles managed to reacquire and kill exactly one actual shipkiller…and its point defense clusters had barely seven seconds in which to try to find the one hundred real laser heads buried in that blinding confusion before they reached their standoff detonation range of thirty thousand kilometers.

The lasers failed. The computers and human beings behind them were still fighting desperately to find their targets when a tsunami of thermonuclear explosions sent a hurricane of bomb-pumped lasers into SLNS Inexorable.

* * *

Missile fire had always become progressively less accurate as the target got further away from the firing ship and lightspeed lag began degrading the quality of the fire control information feeding the missiles’ onboard computers. That creeping arthritis had thrown an ever greater load onto the missiles’ more limited sensors and less capable computers as the range was extended, and the question of exactly when to cut the telemetry links and let the missiles look after themselves had been more of an art than a science, in many ways. That was the very reason the Royal Manticoran Navy had created Apollo, and the ability to control missiles — and EW platforms — in real time even when they were literally light-minutes downrange explained the deadly lethality of Manticoran multidrive missiles.

Under normal circumstances, DesRon 301 could have anticipated that a significant percentage of its missiles would have lost lock, been lured aside by decoys, fooled by jamming. But the circumstances weren’t normal. First, the Ghost Rider platforms virtually on top of the Solarian battlecruisers did have FTL capability, which cut the effective communications lag between the squadron and its sensors in half. Second, Zavala had known his Dazzlers and Dragons Teeth were going to hammer Dubroskaya’s missile defenses into ineffectuality, so his missiles hadn’t been forced to engage in the last-minute evasion maneuvers normally required to squirm through the close-in fire of their targets’ laser clusters. They’d been able to steady down sooner, maintain lock without losing sensor contact at a critical moment, and deploy their lasing rods further out, with more time to align themselves and stabilize before detonation.

But perhaps even more importantly, the Royal Manticoran Navy had captured well over half of Sandra Crandall’s fleet intact at the Battle of Spindle. They’d examined the Solarian League Navy’s latest electronic warfare systems in detail. They’d analyzed their capabilities, noted their parameters and their weaknesses. Manticoran tactical officers like Abigail Hearns and Alice Gabrowski had pored over copies of the SLN’s technical and tactical manuals like misers gloating over the Philosopher’s Stone. They’d even been able to run captured Solarian simulations from inside the Sollies’ systems, doctrine, and hardware during the two-week voyage from Montana to Saltash.

BatCruRon 491 might as well not have had any ECM. In fact, it would have fared better if it hadn’t, because its EW systems didn’t fool a single incoming missile. Instead, the defenses which were supposed to protect those ships actually became homing beacons, helping their executioners find them, and the effectiveness of his squadron’s fire astounded even Jacob Zavala.

* * *

Shock bleached Oxana Dubroskaya’s face bone-white as hundreds of lasers ripped into Captain Borden McGillicuddy’s ship.

The number of missiles, alone, had already made a mockery of her pre-engagement calculations. Their blinding speed, and the incredible power and effectiveness of the electronic warfare systems the Mark 16’s onboard fusion plant made possible were even worse. She had no way of knowing her entire squadron’s total defensive fire had destroyed only one shipkiller, but she knew it hadn’t stopped many, and the survivors completely ignored the decoys of her deployed Halo platforms. They scorched in on Inexorable, and her stomach clenched in horrified disbelief as CIC’s estimate of the laser heads’ throughput appeared on her tactical plot’s sidebar.

The Mark 16’s original fifteen-megaton warhead had been more destructive than any destroyer or light cruiser missile ever previously deployed, although dealing with battlecruiser armor — as Abigail Hearns had learned aboard HMS Hexapuma in the Monica System — had pushed it to its limits. But Tristram and her sisters were equipped with the Mod G version, with a forty-megaton warhead and improved gravity generators. That increased its effectiveness by a factor of over five…which made it more powerful than the brand-new Trebuchet capital ship missile the Solarian League Navy had just begun to deploy.

Inexorable’s armor had never been designed to face that sort of holocaust, and each of the ninety-nine Mark 16s which reached attack range carried six lasing rods. Five hundred and ninety-four x-ray lasers, each more destructive than anything a Solarian ship-of-the-wall could have thrown, stabbed out at McGillicuddy’s ship. Perhaps a third of them wasted their fury on the impenetrable roof and floor of Inexorable’s impeller wedge, but the others didn’t. They punched through the battlecruiser’s sidewalls with contemptuous ease, and armor shattered as the transfer energy blew into the ship’s hull. The sidewalls and the radiation shielding inside them attenuated the lasers…slightly. Nothing could have stopped them, though, and eight hundred and fifty thousand tons of battlecruiser disintegrated in an incandescent flash like the heart of a star.

The entire attack, from the detonation of the first laser head to the last, took less than a second and a half. It was one terrible, blinding eruption of fury, crashing down upon its target like the fist of God. There was no time for life pods to launch. No time for small craft to escape the catastrophe. SLNS Vanquisher’s CIC couldn’t even differentiate between the individual lasers that ripped the life out of her consort and took Inexorable’s entire ship’s company with them.

* * *

“Tango One destroyed,” Abigail Hearns heard her own voice report as the FTL Ghost Rider platforms updated her plot. “Tracking on Tango Two. Second salvo EW activation in…twenty-one seconds.”

* * *

“Raise Zavala!” Oxana Dubroskaya barked. “Tell him we surrender!”

* * *

“Sir!” Lieutenant Wilson said suddenly. “They want to surrender!”

Jacob Zavala looked at Auerbach, and his nostrils flared.

“Put them on my display!” he snapped. An instant later, Vice Admiral Dubroskaya’s face appeared before him. It was no longer the confident, angry face of a Solarian flag officer. It was ashen, the eyes huge.

“Captain –” she began over the Hermes buoy’s faster-than-light channel, but a wave of his hand chopped her off.

“You’re two light-minutes downrange, this link can’t interface with my telemetry channels, and my birds don’t have FTL links,” he said sharply. “My next salvo’s coming in less than ten seconds. It’s already committed, and there are two more right behind it that I can’t abort before they get there. Abandon immediately!”

Dubroskaya stared at him for one more moment, then wheeled from her own pickup.

“Abandon ship!” she shouted. “All units, abandon ship — now!”

* * *

SLNS Paladin was Tango Four, the last ship on DesRon 301’s targeting queue. She got three quarters of her personnel into life pods before she was destroyed, and SLNS Success managed to get almost half of her people out…but only one hundred and eleven of Vanquisher’s two thousand crewmen escaped.

Vice Admiral Oxana Dubroskaya and her staff were not among them.