Location: Capitol City, New Washington, United Commonwealth of Colonies
The Commonwealth Emergency Operations Center (CEOC) was a poorly kept secret. It sat directly between the Prime Minister’s Residence and the Hall of Representatives on the edge of a large park that wasn’t open to the public. It was a small military reservation in the middle of the capitol city of the galaxy’s most powerful political entity, and it was reserved as a break area for service members and politicians. The park always got a lot more public attention than the large block-shaped building on its periphery, even if that box had a large hodgepodge of communications equipment on top of it.
What the public suspected but didn’t know for sure was that there was a reinforced tunnel system from the residence, under the park, through the CEOC, and all the way to the Hall. This way anyone that mattered could move secretly between all three locations. The tabloids ran stories of hookers and other scandalous contraband being run through the New Central Park’s tunnels, but reality wasn’t quite that exciting.
At the moment there was a lot of commotion as Secret Service agents and HI infantry in LACS cleared a path for the Prime Minister through those tunnels.
“What’s the situation?” Ezekiel Mackintosh asked his Chief of Staff Connie Price for the tenth time.
“I don’t know, Mr. Prime Minister.” His chief staffer was being professional, but Ezekiel could hear the irritation in her voice.
They’d both gotten alerts on their government encrypted PADs and been ordered to report immediately to the CEOC. It had turned the PM’s precise schedule into useless kilobytes, and ruined what was shaping up to be a lovely day.
As the entourage of heavily armed guards reached the far end of the tunnels two more HI troopers on guard opened a heavy door. One of the massive, armored men pulled the thick handle while the other pushed, and they still struggled to move the hyper-dense material before the approaching group arrived.
“Atten-hut!” A booming voice rang out the moment Ezekiel stepped through the reinforced doorway and into the building.
“As you were.” He waved them off without looking at anyone in particular. This wasn’t going to be the last time that happened today.
People braced to attention or whole rooms got out of their seats as the PM and his entourage passed. They’d come in on one of the long ends of the blocky structure and didn’t have far to go to reach their destination. The door to the conference room of the CEOC wasn’t as thick and heavy as the large one leading from the tunnels, but it still took an armored HI trooper a moment to wrench that door open too.
“As you were.”
This room wasn’t full of people going about their daily business. This room was full of grizzled old men, sleekly dressed senior politicians, and a couple average-looking suits that likely belonged to some three-letter agency whose operations were need to know. For deniability purposes the PM often fell into that category. All together, they represented the pinnacle of political and military power present in-system, and Ezekiel was the final piece of the puzzle.
A large table capable of seating fifty was completely full except for the PM’s chair at the head. More seats ringed the outside of the room for the staffers. Connie went to take a seat while the Secret Service took up position around the room. The room itself was full of electronic contraptions on thick duro-steel walls, except for the far end.
An armorplast window looked out over the majority of the CEOC. A giant room spread out beyond the window. Rows and rows of desks with military and civilian personnel were grouped together around a large 3-D nebulous blob hovering in the air above them. If Ezekiel hadn’t been in this room a few times during his administration he wouldn’t know it was a scaled down map of the explored galaxy.
In the other room the personnel were gathering, processing, and developing recommendations for every habitable system on the books. Analysts were assigned to individual planets where they catalogued everything from weather patterns to military assets. Each of those teams was headed by a planetary supervisor that reported to a system supervisor. The system supervisor had a small team of analysts to collect and make determinations on a system basis. The same methodology held as that was expanded to sub-sectors and then sectors of space, with each supervisor having their own team of analysts. At the top of the hierarchy was a team responsible for the entire geography of the galaxy, which then had sub-teams to identify trends of important information about specific polities. Above them all was the CEOC Director who was a member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle of advisors, and was currently sitting a few seats away from Ezekiel.
The CEOC had a sister center, the Asgard Military Emergency Operations Center (AMEOC). The sister center was entirely military run and a much better kept secret than the CEOC. An FTL drone carrying updates from the AMEOC and CEOC went out every day so that the two operations centers had comparable information to make decisions. Neither center was more than twelve hours behind the other one.
It was because of an FTL drone that they were all sitting here today.
“Good morning, Mr. Prime Minister.” A truly scary-looking man stood and began typing away on his PAD.
Commandant Theodore “The Bear” Garrett was the Commandant of the Infantry and former Ranger Corps commander. He was the highest ranking ground pounder in a service that numbered in the tens of millions. He had the nickname “Bear” for a reason. He was over two hundred and sixty centimeters tall, and thicker than a battleship. CMUs on their maximum setting were barely able to contain his ridiculously-sized muscles. His head was bald and shiny, which drew attention to his shrewd brown eyes and a bushy, regulation-sized mustache. But what people really realized was the holographic awards on his chest. At the very top, starring down anyone who questioned him, was a Cross of Honor, the highest decoration the Commonwealth could bestow on a soldier.
“Good morning, Commandant.” Ezekiel didn’t dare call him Ted. “What’s the situation?” He was ready to finally get an answer.
As the senior military official on New Washington at the moment it was the Commandant’s responsibility to brief the PM on what was happening. With a few keystrokes a miniaturized projection of the nebulous blob in the other room came into focus. Things were color-coded throughout the hologram and most of it looked normal. Green icons shone back at them. There were a few amber icons, which indicated a heightened state of readiness. The York Sector out on the Rim was one such icon that the PM noticed, but it was the flashing blood red icon that immediately drew everyone’s attention.
“Sir, yesterday at 0300 local time an FTL drone dropped into Syracuse. Fleet command analyzed the data and immediately sent a drone to us and AMEOC. We’re closer, so we got it first.” The Commandant tapped on the red icon and it brought up the specific data. “Bottom line up front, Sir, we’re now involved in a two-front shooting war with the Eastern Block.”
There were lots of details that came after that, but they called it the bottom line up front for a reason.
<And now my administration is officially a wartime one.> Ezekiel felt a lot of his hope extinguish like a snuffed out candle.
He’d had so much planned for their domestic agenda, <and then the Blockies had to go and ruin all of that.>
Admirals and politicians were arguing back and forth while the PM sat there absorbed in his own thoughts. One of the loudest voices was Admiral Sonya Berg, the Chief of Naval Intelligence, who was butting heads with Commandant Garrett as often as she was agreeing with him. The main form of contention was whether or not to send in Third Fleet to engage the Blockie’s Sixth Fleet or sacrifice Rogue Island for an offensive strike into Blockie territory.
“Defense doesn’t win wars, Sonya!”
“It’s not playing defense to rescue the citizens we’re supposed to protect, Ted!”
“The same citizens that were in full rebellion a few days ago?!”
“If we give ground it sets a precedent that we are not going to live up to our obligations to protect our systems. Do you want this war to turn into three fronts: York Sector, Syracuse Sector, and every separatist for a thousand light years seizing the momentum and trying to grant themselves independence? Come on Ted, you know we can’t just let Rogue Island go in order to punch the Blockies in the gut at Xin Omsk or Yangon.”
The Bear fumed for a second, his mustache bristling, before regaining control and turning to the PM. “Sir, it’s your call. What are your orders for Third Fleet?”
That snapped Ezekiel back into the moment.
“What would the battle look like?”
The room went silent.
“If we engage at Rogue Island one of two things will happen,” the Commandant considered his words. “First, we transition in and our numerical superiority is enough to make the Blockies blink.”
“That’s the outcome we want, Sir,” Sonya chimed in. “If we don’t start shooting then you can try a diplomatic approach.”
“Yes, Sir, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I can count the number of times a Blockie admiral has blinked on one hand in my sixty year career.” Garrett countered.
“If it escalates to shooting?” Ezekiel’s voice was soft as he stared at the mini amorphous galactic blob in front of him.
“Fleet level actions are impossible to predict, Sir.” Both leaders agreed on that. “We will have numerical superiority and that gives us the advantage, but we’re still talking about several hundred warships.”
“Conservatively, Sir, we can expect to lose three or four dozen battleships if there’s a full engagement. The number could be greater if things escalate further to boarding actions.” Sonya filled in.
“That’s…” The PM’s eye wet wide.
“A hundred to a hundred and fifty thousand spacers and infantry depending on the ships’ classes.” Sonya elaborated when the PM didn’t continue.
“Oh my God.” Ezekiel felt his head spin at the sheer loss of human life expected.
“Comparably, Sir, Rogue Island alone has a population of a quarter billion as of the last census. If the Blockies are unopposed they might move on to Archangel. That’s another almost billion citizens to worry about, and they’re technologically-limited lifestyle is going to make them very vulnerable to attack. None of this even begins to cover the infrastructure that would be destroyed and the resulting economic damage.”
“What about Syracuse?” The number of lives in the palm of his hand overwhelmed the PM. “Are they going to go after the sector capital?”
“We don’t know, Sir. But if you give the Blockies and inch they’ll be inclined to take a mile.” Garrett replied.
“Will Syracuse be vulnerable if we deploy Third Fleet?”
“More vulnerable than with the fleet there, Sir. But Syracuse is a tough nut to crack.” Sonya stepped in. “Their system defense force is top notch, and we can recall the recon task force to bolster their numbers. That coupled with the system’s defensive armaments will keep a large force at bay.”
“If we do an offensive push?” the PM saw Garrett’s face light up.
“We have a list of options drawn up with appropriate force level. My personal recommendation would be to hit Yangon with Third Fleet. The forces are already in position and the system is an important junction for them from the Mid to Core worlds. It has moderate defenses, but the Fleet should be able to overcome them with minimal casualties.”
“The problem becomes the planetary invasions if we’re looking to hold the system.” Sonya stepped back in. “We’d need nearly a division of infantry on the ground to take all the PDCs, and then a garrison of several brigades to keep them docile. Those are numbers that will leave us thin, especially with what’s going on in York Sector.”
“My infantry is more than up to the task, Sir.” Garrett sounded like a proud father. “We’re also increasing our presence in the York Sector to counter any Blockie push, but if anything York is a distraction. The real war is going to be in Syracuse Sector.”
“Economics?” Ezekiel turned to Connie.
“A war will put the education initiative on the back burner. The shipyards will need to start cranking out new warships and the branches training new personnel. We’ll have to get a number from the MWFAS and get appropriations from Congress,” the Chief of Staff replied.
“We have some discretionary spending remaining from this fiscal year, Sir,” the Bear informed. “We can put that toward initial production costs for the ramp up.”
“Piece of advice, Commandant. Don’t call it a ramp up. It sounds too potentially violent for the masses.”
“Then I suggest the masses nut up, Ms. Price.” The Commandant shot back. “War is violent, and with the way the Blockies are acting people better get used to it.”
“I need to think about this.” Ezekiel got to his feet and everyone did the same. “You’ll have my orders by the end of the day.”
“Sir, Third Fleet has sent a reconnaissance force to check the validity of the data. We should know that information before you make your decision.” Sonya informed as the PM headed for the door.
“Thank you, Admiral.” Ezekiel replied, still distracted as the Secret Service closed ranks around him as they headed for the tunnels.
Those beefy bodyguards blocked his view of the men and women in uniform remaining in the room. Many of their faces were marred with disapproval, especially the Bear’s. They wanted an answer, and they wanted one yesterday so they could begin executing their mission.
Location: Rogue Island, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Transition in three…two…one.” CWS Everest and its squadron of destroyers dropped out of FTL nine million kilometers from the hyper limit of the Rogue Island system.
“Initiate EMCON, passive sensors only. Let’s try to get a read on what the fleet will be sailing into?” The skipper settled into her seat as the ship went to strict emissions control as part of their stealth protocol.
The warship and its four counterparts became the next best thing to empty holes in space as they powered at slow speeds toward the single inhabited planet of the system. They spread out to get maximum coverage, and constantly double checked their courses so they could make a quick getaway if they needed it.
It took hours before their one light minute bubbles were within range of the planet.
“We’ve got them.” The Everest’s Ops OIC began transmitting data to the bridge’s holo-bubble.
Around Rogue Island in stationary orbit were four cruisers and four destroyers. It was standard planetary coverage for an invasion. Their passive sensors weren’t picking up any landing craft from this far out, but the skipper was sure stuff was going up and down from those ships.
“I’ve got a patrol, Ma’am.”
Two larger contacts, both battleships, were patrolling about three million kilometers out from the planet.
“Good job, Ops. Now find me the rest of the fleet.”
Everest and her compatriots searched until their predetermined departure time but couldn’t find anything showing where the rest of the Blockie’s Sixth Fleet was. Everest’s skipper had questions, but those were for fleet command to answer. Her job was to get this data back so they could make decisions.
“Pack it up,” she sighed, wishing they had more time. “Let’s go home.”