Name: Ezekiel Mackintosh
Genetic Identification Code: HV120523467113
Physical Health: Superior
Mental Health: [Authorized Personnel Only]
Education: Master’s in Business Administration
Occupation: Prime Minister of the United Commonwealth of Colonies, Majority Stockholder in Mackintosh Shipping Conglomerate
Criminal History: None
Citizen Status: Confirmed
Location: Boston-Portland-Providence-Hartford Metropolis, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Thank you, thank you! Thank you so much.”
Hands strained out from the line of people on either side the wall of security surrounding the most recognizable man in the Commonwealth.
Ezekiel Mackintosh negotiated it all with an award-winning smile and a seemingly endless battery of charisma.
“Thank you for having me here today.” He grabbed hand after hand smiling and shaking.
His hand was already numb from the constant pressure of being squeezed. Even his in vitro enhancements couldn’t fight off the deluge of supporters.
“No, thank you.” He pointed at a random man in the crowd and let forth a rich hearty laugh.
The man looked utterly confused. He hadn’t said anything, but that wasn’t what the holo-cams hovering all around the politician would report on the evening news. They would just show the Prime Minister walking within a sea of supporters and being thanked for the speech and his simple presence on Earth.
<It is the oldest trick in the book.>
Even though Earth was the last place in the explored galaxy that Ezekiel Mackintosh wanted to be.
“Thank you. Keep up the good work!” The crowd gave one last deafening roar of support before he slipped through the door of his armored air-car.
Once secured behind the military-grade duro-steel and nanite-infused windows his face went from a beaming smile to a scowl. “Give me that spray.” He snatched a bottle out of his aide’s hand and liberally started applying it to his hands.
The spray contained a particularly aggressive nanite designed to destroy all foreign particles on the PM’s hands. That coupled with a full dosage of medical nanites he’d taken before the speech should save him from any bio-warfare employed by lurking assassins. When Ezekiel had taken office three years ago he’d thought the countermeasures were extreme, but then he’d read the classified reports of previous PMs. Now he was never more than a minute away from the shot and his spray.
“That went well Mr. Prime Minister.” A buxom, attractive woman sitting in the seat adjacent to him stated without looking up from her PAD.
Connie Price was the PM’s Chief of Staff, and despite the young, fit, dumb-blonde appearance she was a highly intelligent political operative who’d been working the corridors of Commonwealth power for over sixty years. Despite looking like a bubbly college sorority member, she was actually five years older than the eighty-six year old PM.
<The wonders of modern medicine.> Ezekiel only let his eyes linger on her for a moment.
Trying to sleep with Connie Price was a political death-sentence; actually succeeding was even worse. If there was such a thing as political slavery then sleeping with Connie was a one-way pass to an eternity of subservience.
So Ezekiel made sure to not get within ten meters of that.
“I thought so.” The air-limo was already in the air surrounded by its escort of Spyder Assault Shuttles.
The Spyders easily kept up with the supped-up air-limo as it streaked over North America toward his next speaking engagement.
“What are the analytics?” The PM tapped his throat and his smartcloth tie loosened automatically.
“You are trending favorably at ninety-two percent.” Charts blossomed into view around the compartment. “Based on non-verbal body language, facial analysis, and background your push for education reform led by the Commonwealth government was universally accepted. Your rhetoric against corporate education pushes went over well, but the possible changes you suggested especially involving tenure only showed positive reaction in fifty-two percent of the crowd.”
“Tenure requirements have always been unpopular; same with pensions. I’d count a fifty-two percent positive response in Boston a win.”
“Yes, Sir.” Connie’s face was neutral, but Ezekiel had known her long enough to know when she disagreed.
“Don’t worry so much, Connie. It’ll play a little better over in San Francisco. Mexico City will absolutely hate it, and London will split the difference.” The PM broke down the political climates in some of the Earth’s largest metropolises. “But the bottom line is the Earth is just one vote; even if it is the homeworld. We need to focus on the other twelve systems we’re visiting, and then bring home the issue on New Washington. That is where we’ll get the votes.”
“And where we’ll get the most resistance from corporate lobbyists.” Connie smiled knowingly.
That was the nature of Commonwealth politics, and the politics of any political entity that spanned numerous solar systems. Each planet in the Commonwealth received an equal vote in the legislative process, regardless of their population or importance, so what went on behind the scenes was even more important than the votes on the floor of the Council of Representatives.
Each system might have an equal vote but each system was not equal.
Earth was the perfect example. As the homeworld of the human race Earth held symbolic power. That was the entire reason the PM was here to launch his new education initiative. Political campaigns of this nature always started on Earth. However, beyond symbology, Earth held no other power.
Earth was a cesspool of decay. Seventy billion people on a world meant for four billion. Sixty of those seventy billion struggling for basic resources on the surface while another ten lived in space habitats crowding the orbitals. Everything about the planet had the scent of degredation to it. Even the homes of the elite in upper-class London and the high-city of New York held a tinge of decline.
The PM actually had nanite filters implanted into his nose for this length of the trip. Earth was so unlike his birth world, Haven, that it was night and day. Haven was an alpine paradise. It was a little on the cold side, with a summer average of only sixteen degrees Celsius; but the air was clean, the people, respectable, and the industry was booming.
Ezekiel had served the people of Haven for two eight-year terms as their representative before being chosen by his Progressive Party to be Prime Minister. He was elected on the premise of reform. His party was all about centralizing and retaining Commonwealth power. They wanted to reduce corporate and military sway on Commonwealth decisions. The education initiative was just the latest in a slew of approaches designed to meet that goal.
It just happened to coincide with the launch of Gold Technologies new Education Division cirriculum. A happy coincidence that was already eating into Thomas Gold’s market share.
The PM wasn’t idealistic enough to think he would be able to sway all of the systems in the Commonwealth to his side, after all; they had the right to choose their education provider for themselves. But if he was able to pass his Bill then the incentives for choosing a Commonwealth Ministry of Education backed system would be the most financially responsible decision. But he needed support to get the Bill passed. The Progressives only held a three vote majority over the more conservative Eagle Party, and the Opposition Leader of the Council, a former PM himself, was on Mars right now starting a counter-campaign to get the four votes needed to scrap Ezekiel’s plan.
The Opposition Leader was a charismatic speaker, with a larger-than-life presence, and a former Infantry Admiral to boot. The man was a force of nature that Ezekiel looked small next to. Even though the PM was just a centimeter shy of two meters tall. <Which is why I need to be smarter.>
And that’s why he had Connie Price in the air-limo to help him plot a course to victory.
“Mr. Prime Minister.” An unknown voice rang in to the air-limo’s cabin. “We have a priority communication from first Fleet Commander, Sir. We’re changing course to Montreal. The Admiral will meet you there.”
“Montreal?” The PM sputtered. “But I’ve got a speech to give in San Francisco in an hour.”
“Sorry, Sir. Our orders are clear. This issue is Code Word Magenta.”
Before Ezekiel could rebuke the driver, Connie put up her hand.
“This could be an opportunity. Members of the Admiralty would rarely consider meeting you because of your party. This could be a chance to impress them and maybe influence them. Make them back one of your other initiatives. You both agree on capping system defense forces and funding. Use that to make inroads with them. The commander of First Fleet is one of the Old Guard and he’s tapped into the Good Ol’ Boy network. Convince him and you’ll have five other Fleet Commanders arguing on your behalf.”
Ezekiel was still fuming, but he nodded his agreement.
<I am the Commander in Chief.> He reminded himself. Even if that didn’t mean the same thing it had four hundred years ago.
Fifteen minutes later the PM was on the ground in the center of the Montreal-Ottawa- Quebec City Metropolis and being escorted deep into an underground bunker by a squad of Heavy Infantry. A squad, if Ezekiel understood the stencil on their shoulders correctly, that was comprised of Rangers.
Two-man teams from the squad started to peel off at specific locations until the last two took up position outside of a reinforced door. Ezekiel reached up to knock but the door was pulled open before his Fist made contact. He was sitting there looking mildly foolish, with his hand still hovering in the air, as he stood face to face with First Fleet’s commander, Admiral Mitchum Duvall.
“Admiral Duvall, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” Ezekiel extended his hand.
“Sir,” the Admiral accepted the offering, and the PM tried not to wince when the military man nearly crushed his hand. “Please come in.”
Connie followed the two men in, and then looked around once the door was shut. “Shield Room?” she asked.
“Yes, Ma’am. A necessity under anything classified Code Word Magenta.” The Admiral gave her a curt nod before moving over to the table and engaging the holo.
“Mr. Prime Minister, at oh-nine hundred hours this morning we received a communications burst from one of our outer system buoys. The transmission came from a transitioning destroyer that received it from one of our Alcubierre Drive capable communications reconnaissance drones stationed in this system here.”
The holo winked to life with a map of the explored galaxy. Commonwealth claimed space was in blue, Eastern Block in red, European Union in green, private corporate systems in gray, and a smattering of other minor interstellar polities in a variety of other colors. The blinking icon of the Alcubierre Drive capable drone was from a system along contested border in the Mid-Worlds where red and blue angrily butted up against one another.
“That can’t be good.” Ezekiel regretted opening his mouth the minute the words spilled out.
“No, Sir.” The Admiral deadpanned. “The sensor readout we have from the missile shows the Blockies’ Sixth Fleet moving into the system. The official word from the consulate in Beijing is training exercises, but there is no reason a whole fleet would be that far from the nearest supply depot for ‘training exercises’.”
Ezekiel couldn’t help but stare at the sensor data.
“Do we have an estimated strength on Sixth Fleet, Admiral?” Connie stepped in.
“We’re still deciphering this data.” The Admiral replied. “The data is long-range and the drone’s onboard computer decided to haul ass the moment it got anything back. But Naval Intelligence estimates Sixth Fleet’s strength at two-hundred warships.”
“Two Hundred!” The PM couldn’t help but sound a little panicked.
“Yes, Sir. Sixth Fleet is one of their primary offensive units. However; only about eighty of those two hundred warship are battleships, with maybe another twenty being battlecruisers, so we’re looking at wall-strength of only about one hundred. The other hundred vessels will be recon vessels or light skirmishers.”
“Options?” Connie asked, when the silence went on a moment too long.
“Ma’am, Third fleet is anchored only twenty light years away and is our main combat force for the Sector. We also have several task forces from Eighth and our own Sixth fleet running operations along the border. We can have Third Fleet mirroring the Blockies’ movements within the week.” It was clear the Admiral liked this plan the best, which was why it was his first suggestion.
“We could pull back the task forces to the nearest inhabited systems and order them to defend the systems if attacked, but that leaves an already porous border with its doors wide open and undefended.” The Admiral clearly didn’t like the second option. “We could send orders for all the task forces to consolidate and continue their missions. It would be more of a reconnaissance in force than border operations.”
“What would the consolidated task force’s strength be?” Ezekiel’s momentary lapse at having the possibility of war dropped in his lap had passed.
“Forty wall-units and another fifteen lighter vessels.” The Admiral replied, bringing up some information.
“What are the nearest systems that the Blockies could threaten?”
“There are three, Sir: Syracuse, Archangel, and Rogue Island.”
“And how would we deploy the task forces to those systems?”
“We’d parcel them out based on system defense force capabilities, Sir.”
“They won’t go for Syracuse,” Connie thought out loud. “It would be the perfect system to conquer, because of its heavy industry, but its system defense force is top notch. They’ve got a couple squadrons of battleships, and if you add that to any potential reinforcements then the Blockies’ Sixth Fleet would be in a slug match and vulnerable when Third Fleet arrived.”
“If Syracuse is out then Archangel might be there best target.” Ezekiel continued the line of thought.
Archangel was a system founded primarily by religiously conscious citizens. The people on the planet were required by local law to live a simple life much more backward then the average Commonwealth system. The system had no space-based defense forces beyond the orbital arrays and missile pods required by Commonwealth law. Corporation had been lobbying the Council for years to force the government of Archangel to the negotiation table. The system was a wealthy one, and none of that was being exploited. It would make a great target for the Blockies and would require the full commitment of Third Fleet to defend; which would leave the Commonwealth vulnerable throughout the rest of the Sector.
<All for less than a billion stubborn citizens.>
“Rogue Island is still a possibility, Sir.” The Admiral commented. “It has a small defensive fleet, but they are about as close to openly hostile against their own government as you can come.”
Archangel might be the easiest on paper to conquer, but if the Blockies got troops on the ground in Rogue Island then the local population might turn against the Commonwealth and actively help the invaders. There was a reason the original settlers of the system had named it Rogue Island.
<I can’t let either of the systems fall.> Ezekiel pushed his political agenda to the back of his mind.
The quickest way to a vote of no-confidence was to lose a system, its industry, and all its citizens to your worst enemy.
“Send orders to consolidate the task force and recon in force.” The PM decided. “This could always be a feint, and we don’t want to take the bait. But I want the combined task forces and Third Fleet ready to jump on Sixth fleet if it attacks any of our systems.”
“Yes, Sir.” The Admiral pulled out his PAD to draft the orders.
The PM looked over his shoulder to where Connie gave a slight nod of her head.
<Maybe I’ll be able to get a little more military support after this show of strength.> He thought as he read over the prepared orders and offered his GIC for signature.
“Please keep me informed, Admiral.”
“Of course, Sir.”
Historically, the Commonwealth Admiralty took “keep me informed” rather loosely. The Prime Minister likely wouldn’t hear about the Blockies’ Sixth Fleet again until after the battle, if a battle even took place. That was the key difference between commander in chief now and the commander in chief in the past. Theoretically, there was civilian control of the Commonwealth military, but realistically the Admiralty was an entirely separate branch of government.
His orders would be immediately dispatched to the units in question, and it allowed the PM to get back to work on Earth. Being slightly in the dark concerning the military was business as usual.