|Title:||The Oort Perimeter|
|Cover Artist:||Don Semora|
|Series:||The Earthfleet Saga|
|Publication Date:||June 2010|
|Preceded By:||Destiny's Mission|
|Followed By:||Empire Rising|
Back Cover Blurb
Silent for many years, Black Orchid, a dark and powerful force bent on world domination, has risen again. For decades the Society Intelligence Corps has successfully kept Black Orchid's power in check. But that is all about to change. With recently stolen fleet technology in their grasp, Black Orchid now strives to use it to once and for all destroy the Society, and her fleet, and claim Earth for their own.
The story starts out with Major Robert "Dutch" Collins, a former US Air Force ace fighter pilot, now a bed ridden cripple an invalid due to being shot down by a stealth missile while on a routine mission over the Eural mountains. The introduction covers the troubles he went through after that, and the incredible life of misery that followed. It also picks up the story of Dr. Rasmussen, an expert in the field of quantum and theoretical physics, who was rejected and shunned by his peers due to his radical and innovative ideas, many that were well ahead of their time, and outside of the "norm" that most modern grant committees would approve, he found himself in a rut, unable to get much of anywhere, and thus relegated to an insignificant corner of the university where he worked. Seeing the potential of both men, the Society steps out and recruits both men, fully healing Dutch (including fully regenerating lost body parts) and putting him to work as a pilot within Earthfleet while Rasmussen is assigned to a project to help the Society Science Corps solve a problem with the Coaxial FTL drive systems used by Earthfleet starships. He then pairs him with Bentley to help him get up to speed.
To unofficially greet each inductee, Grand Admiral Mike Clayton, and his chief pilot, Lieutenant Joel Pendleton watch behind a one way mirror as Dutch wakes up after being healed of his injuries and brought into life within the Society, while Chancellor Nordham and Dr. Corbin stand in another room and observe Dr. Rasmussen as he is brought into the society as well. However, while Mike and Pendleton are happy to see Dutch, and Nordham is happy to see Rasmussen, Corbin remains skeptical and appears as though he's somewhat threatened by the new addition to the Society. Elsewhere, seeking to continue his plans to destroy Mike, he heads over to Earthfleet's Command One station and overhears information about a sinister group known as Black Orchid, who has been a thorn in the side of Earthfleet and the Society for years. Seeing the potential to use them in his plans, Zoahn seeks them out on Earth and finds one of their representatives. After talking briefly, they agree to work together, but only if Zoahn can find for them a weakness in Earthfleet technology that they can exploit. Zoahn agrees, and then goes off in search of what they're after.
Back within Earthfleet, Dutch is given the task of acclimating Dutch as fast as possible to life in both Earthfleet, and the Society. At first Dutch has an issue getting used to everything that he's presented with, as it's a lot to wrap his mind around. Especially the idea that there are hundreds of races in the galaxy, upwards of nearly a thousand at last count. Upon stepping onto the main promenade of Pluto Station, Dutch quickly begins to display one of the many important skills which were part of the reason he was chosen for induction. It's not long, however, before Ambassador Phyland and Ambassador Finch walk by. They stop briefly and introduce themselves, much to the excitement and intrigue of Dutch, before moving on to other things. Back at Mike's quarters, Sarah cooks him a meal, that greatly impresses Mike, as another of her ways to be romantic with Mike, much to his discomfort. It's not that he doesn't like her. It's just that she, in his mind, is a hologram, and he's a human. Even so he appreciates her kind, albeit out of character (for what he perceives to be an AI) for a ship's AI.
Elsewhere, Zoahn continues his hunt for a weakness in Earthfleet technology and soon stumbles across a fatal flaw in the Coaxial power and FTL systems that the newer fleet ships use. He then takes this back to Black Orchid for them to use. Meanwhile, Pendleton continues his introduction and training of Dutch, even taking him to a favorite hangout at Pluto Station run by a Macanorian who is both the store's mascot and bartender. However, while they're there getting food and drinks, they encounter several higher ranking officers who have had a little too much to drink. Eventually, due to the belligerence of the drunk men, and Pendleton's attitude, a fight breaks out with Pendleton and Dutch beating the drunk officers in a quick and decisive fist fight. However, this ends up getting them dragged before Mike who chews out Pendleton profusely for what happened. However, by the time the meeting is over, a deep, but friendly rivalry is born between Dutch and Pendleton, which will benefit both men in the future.
Down on planet Earth, Zoahn delivers the information he's found to a spy for Black Orchid, after which he hands it to Ronald Veckmeyer, aka "Veck", the leader of Black Orchid. He then hands the information to his scientists so that they can begin using it to defeat Earthfleet. Meanwhile, Mike goes and speaks to Dr. Olm about Sarah and her growing romantic gestures to him. He also expresses his growing interest in her, and his reservations at the same time, as he still believes that she's merely an extremely advanced Artificial Intelligence Program, and not a living being. Olm advises him to just let it run its course and see where it goes. Elsewhere, Phyland approaches Nordham and complains about the current political instabilities and issues that are growing all across the galaxy in the absence of the UGW. With them gone, and the moderating influence (albeit a corrupt one) they provided, things are rapidly growing unstable all across the galaxy. So, to rectify this, he proposes starting a new galactic political organization similar to the UGW, but without all the corruption. Nordham isn't certain this is a good idea. But Finch believes that they should at least try to make things work, and to do that he's willing to help out, even offering the use of his personal ship.
Meanwhile, as Rasmussen and the Society are trying to solve several important issues with their technology, and Black Orchid is trying to quickly build devices to take advantage of those weaknesses, Pendleton continues to train Dutch while Phyland, Finch, Julius and Mary head out to Vocrac in the Kavenu to meet with V'sin and discuss their idea with him. Back at the labs, Rasmussen speaks with Eric Rogers and helps him with solving an issue that he's been struggling with, but in doing so runs afoul of Dr. Corbin who fires him from the project he was assigned to. This creates other problems within the Society, and at the worst possible time. Especially with the actions of Black Orchid drawing the suspicions of Earthfleet. So much so, in fact, that Lars and Vlad are dispatched to Earth to investigate them. Once down there, Lars and Vlad encounter Ricardo Escobar. After bribing him with some casino winnings, they talk him into giving information on the location of a man named Ebony Phillips. Lars and Vlad leave, and escape from the hands of Black Orchid and their agents, however, Veck is notified and ready for when they return next at the address that was given to them.
Later on Lars and Vlad return, but inadvertently step into a trap and are attacked by men wielding plasma weapons, much to the two men's surprise. Realizing they can't win the fight, they call for reinforcements. A team of twelve fleet special forces solders portal into the casino and open fire, quickly neutralizing the Black Orchid soldiers and securing the location. Frustrated with not getting their target, they quickly police up all the plasma weapons and anything else that would leave a clue to their presence there, and then portal back home. Back on Vocrac, V'sin takes Phyland and the others to see the Gayik'Von president. Once there they discuss Phyland's idea with him. After some discussion, the president agrees to help him. Back in Sol, Lars shows Mike and Nordham the prototype weapons they recovered from Black Orchid and worry what this means. They then discuss asking Rasmussen and Dutch if they've seen these kinda weapons, or if they're new. Dr. Olm then finds Rasmussen and asks him to have a look at the weapons. He agrees. Upon examination he reveals that these are indeed of Earth origin and not created from anything stolen from the fleet or the Society, much to the relief of everyone else.
Back at Fleet Intelligence, Lars and Vlad are sent back to the planet with new information on the possible location of Ebony. They eventually find him, but are attacked by agents of Black Orchid who are trying to defend him. Eventually they are defeated and Ebony is captured, after which he is taken to the Director of the SIC and interrogated. After this a time skip happens, one year forward, and we pick up with Phyland who goes back out to check up on the process of V'sin and the others to build a new central governmental body similar to the UGW to replace it. Lars and Vlad, in turn, head down to Earth to check up on Black Orchid. And Dutch has recently graduated from all of his classes and received his full commission as a lieutenant commander within Earthfleet. Veck and his scientists, on the other hand, are struggling with all of the information that Zoahn has given them because, despite being supplied with all they needed, much of the technology was well beyond their ability to make use of it, or in some cases understand it. So, in order to overcome this knowledge cap, Zoahn provides Veck and his people with everything they need to defeat Earthfleet, including a volcanic island with a special starship, and a cannon capable of destroying any Earthfleet ship.
Meanwhile, Dutch is introduced to his new crew, serving under Commander Toby, and Mike is served yet another very special meal fixed by Sarah just for him to eat and enjoy, further displaying her growing love for him. Lars, in the meantime, heads down to Earth with Vlad to determine what Black Orchid is up to. He succeeds in gathering enough information to sneak into one of Black Orchid's clandestine airfields, catching a ride on one of the planes headed out to the island in the process. Elsewhere, Rasmussen, working with Dr. Olm now, begins to make progress on the weaknesses in Earthfleet technology. Eventually he identifies the root of the problem. However, a solution is yet to be found. Back down on Earth, Veck summons the 13 heads of the Illuminati and invites them to come to his new weaponized island for a demonstration of his newly acquired power. Back at the Society labs, after some careful research, a solution is found to the weaknesses in fleet technology. However, implementing the changes will take time. Even so, Mike orders the changes to be made and as quickly as possible.
After arriving at Black Orchid's island, Lars and Vlad manage to sneak into the mountain facility and begin trying to determine its purpose, and how Black Orchid acquired it. As they're doing this, Veck introduces the Grand Druid and his companions from the Illuminati to the mountain and Zoahn, cementing his superiority over them deep in their minds. He then takes them to the main command room where they prepare to fire the super cannon at Command One as soon as it comes within firing position. As soon as it does, despite Lars and Vlad's best efforts to prevent the weapon from firing, Black Orchid fires the cannon, but merely succeeds in grazing Command One with their shot. However, the weapon succeeds in doing an incredible amount of damage to the station, severely crippling it and knocking out shields, power and weapons, and even causing heavy structural damage to the lower portion of the station. The damage that the station takes ripples through the superstructure and also causes severe damage to the crew residences. Sensing the danger, Sarah immediately teleports Mike out of his quarters, just as the room around him buckles and collapses from the shock of the blast, and over to where the Sergenious is berthed.
Realizing that this too is in risk of collapsing, Sarah uses her powers and flings the Sergenious of the bay and into space, before teleporting Mike and herself inside. After ordering the Sergenious to power up, she summons the other surprised crewmembers and orders them to quickly get to work getting the ship up and running. Nearby Dutch is caught offguard by the severe shaking the station undergoes, and then is transported to the Appalachia, where Commander Toby orders him into his seat and to get them out of spacedock as fast as possible. He quickly complies, after which they begin to take stock of their situation, and how bad things are. The reports aren't good. Back on Earth, Veck checks up on the status of Command One and is furious to find that it's still intact, although just barely. So he orders the weapon to fire again. A second shot is fired, but the resourceful crew of the station manage to block the shot by throwing torpedoes in its path which prematurely detonate the beam. Veck tries for a third shot, but with the same results. He is afterwards unable to make a fourth shot as the station slips behind the moon before he can, saving it from ultimate destruction. Realizing that Command One is a loss, Mike evacuates everyone to Command Two where they pick up the fight again.
Earthfleet then fires up its defensive satellites and attempts to return fire, but the islands shields are too powerful and deflect the return fire. Veck's cannon then knocks out the satellites, preventing Earthfleet from continuing the fight. Deciding that the only way to complete the destruction of Command One, and destroy Earthfleet, is to launch the Predicator and battle them face to face. Back in the fleet, Mike and the others are working feverishly to determine how Black Orchid is defeating their technology, while at the same time trying to find a solution that will stop them, and the Predicator, from destroying the fleet and all of their ships. Realizing that their coaxial energy technology is their Alkalies Heel, they start going through their list of ships that aren't powered by this technology. They soon learn that the fleet still has some old warp powered fighters that are still operational, and haven't been decommissioned or mothballed. Deciding to pilot them remotely, the same way they did with the Sergenious on Sebius, Pendleton and Dutch have Sarah link them to the ships, which they then rush to prepare for combat.
Meanwhile Mike sends in a number of his ships to confront the Predicator, but not to destroy it, as they would be destroyed in the effort. Instead, they remain at the very edge of the Predicator's range to draw it away from the moon and Command One. Eventually realizing what they're doing, the captain of the Predicator breaks of the pursuit and heads for Command One again. Having properly prepped the fighters for combat, Dutch and Pendleton link with it using Sarah's remote avatar trick, and then fly them out to engage the Predicator. After a brief but pitched battle, the two fighters are destroyed. However, they have done considerable damage to the Predicator in the process. Having done so, Dutch and Pendleton take a little bit of time to recover, after which they plan to take another pair of fighters against the Predicator. However, before they can, Finch grabs his person starship, the Kavenu and, with the help of Phyland, Julius and Mary, and attack the Predicator, dealing heavy damage to the ship. However, the Kavenu suffers critical damage in the engagement and has to pull back, leaving the Predicator to continue its mission once again.
However, before they can make any further progress, Captain Blakley and his crew jump into the area aboard the Earthfleet dreadnought Spartacus and engage the Predicator. And, while they have limited firepower and energy reserves, Blakely and his crew throw everything they have at the Black Orchid starship in an effort to stop it once and for all. Meanwhile, as they're doing that, Lars and Vlad work quickly to sabotage the main weapon on Black Orchid's island, and then hastily flee the island, stealing one of the jets parked on the island in the process. After escaping the island, they then climb out as fast as they can, hoping beyond hope that they can escape the area in time before the island explodes. Up in space, Blakely is notified that they're rapidly running out of power. Not wanting to give up the fight, Blakely orders them to shut down everything but weapons and shields as he doesn't want to let the Predicator escape, despite their low resources. Down on Earth, Veck orders that the cannon be charged for another shot. However, because of what Lars and Vlad did, this causes the reactors to overload and explode, vaporizing the island.
Up in space, Blakely and the Spartacus make one final effort and eventually succeed in destroying the Predicator just as they reach the end of their resources. Seeing that Black Orchid's island has exploded, and spotting Lars and Vlad's plane escaping the area, Blakely orders them transported out of the plane and onto the ship, which the crew does. Elsewhere, upon seeing the defeat of Black Orchid and the Predicator, Zoahn is angry and frustrated, but soon turns his attention back to Phillip Augustus and the plans he still has for him. Back on Command Two, while trying to put all the pieces back together again, it's soon discovered that, in the process of their battle with Black Orchid, Earth has inadvertently discovered their existence, a revelation that is very troubling for the fleet, and the Society. Especially after centuries of very careful efforts to keep their existance hidden from everyone on Earth.
In the story's epilogue, Mike and Nordham, realizing that the rabbit is out of the bag, and can never be returned there again, decide to go down to Earth to introduce themselves and open an initial dialog with the people there. Olm reveals to Eric that they've come up with a patch that makes their ships less vulnerable to anti-coaxial weapons, like those used by Black Orchid, but it's not a fix. Only a patch. So the fleet and the Society will need to work on a new solution to make the ships of the fleet completely safe again. And lasty, Phyland informs Nordham that the ASW, a replacement for the UGW, is a go, and should hopefully take up the slack left by the UGW's passing, while Lars discusses the end of Black Orchid with his boss within the SIC.
Awards and Reviews
There are none to report at this time.