Location: Capitol City, New Washington, United Commonwealth of Colonies
It was supposed to be a light day – politically speaking – for the Prime Minister. He had an early workout session with his personal trainer. He always ran through the parks near the PM’s official residence. Journalists tended to camp out along his potential trails and shout questions. He never answered them, but he made sure they got good pictures of their PM keeping in shape. It did a lot to counter the stereotypical image of the lazy politician.
After a quick shower he had an early breakfast scheduled with a minor CEO about mining rights. Ezekiel wouldn’t say as much, but he’d steer the man toward Mackintosh Shipping to haul to raw ore the CEO was looking to mine. With shipping licenses in just about every system, and a virtual rubber stamp to get anyone he wanted, the PM’s company was well suited to move the cargo of the Commonwealth. In governments of old that might have been a conflict of interest, but it was the spoils of political victory in the current Commonwealth as long as you didn’t get caught with blood on your hands. Ezekiel always made sure his rates were the best in the system the potential client was looking at, so if someone made a scene, all he had to do was point at the cold hard numbers. The dollar signs did all the talking.
The meeting lasted until lunch where he was going to dine in his residence with Connie to prep for the fundraiser that evening. Everyone who was anyone would be there, including his current political opponents. The votes were still coming in from across the Commonwealth, but the votes on New Washington were already in. The Prime Minister’s Progressive Party had dropped from holding the largest percentage of politically appointed seats on the planet. It had held thirty-eight percent, with a number of other parties filling in the other sixty-two, but most notably the Eagle Party. Now, the Eagle Party was sitting with a comfortable forty-one percent, while the Progressives had dropped to thirty-seven. It wasn’t a big loss for the Progressives compared to the smaller parties, who’d lost big in some cases, but any loss of ground to the Eagle Party was cause for concern. The popular phrase was “as goes New Washington goes the Commonwealth”. Ezekiel hoped that wasn’t true.
Admiral Simmons was going to be downright intolerable tonight. Her whole party was going to be drunk on victory even though the Progressive candidate had retained the Council of Representative’s seat for New Washington. Ezekiel made sure the victorious candidate was going to be at the event and strategically placed near the PM for when the Eagle Party representative eventually came over. A shot for the morning paper of the triumphant Progressive next to the woman trying to unseat the PM was just good PR.
Things would have been much simpler if Deja Simmons had lost re-election, but she’d handily defeated her opponent with seventy-four percent of the vote despite the money the Progressive Party threw into her opponent’s war chest. The former admiral was just too damned popular.
Ezekiel was just getting ready to shower and get into his high-quality smartcloth tux for the event when his PAD started to chime. It wasn’t just the chime of an incoming message, but an emergency wailing. The PM had heard the notification on so few occasions he knew something must be terribly wrong.
He’d barely reached the PAD when his security detail burst into the room with Connie right behind them. Her face was uncharacteristically pale. “We’re under attack!”
Ezekiel reflexively looked up, but Connie shook her head. “Not here, but…hurry!”
The PM was still in his casual smartcloth sweats when the security detail hustled him into the underground tunnels that led away from the PM’s residence. One set went to the Hall while the other went to the CEOC. At a run it took them less than two minutes to get to the emergency operations center. Despite his physical fitness routine, the PM’s chest was heaving when they arrived at the thick, armored door guarded by a squad of Rangers in LACS. Once they were through the door, and into the CEOC it got even more chaotic.
Whoever had said that we love chaos because we love to produce order was a moron. Chaos was just chaos, and chaos reigned in the CEOC main room now. The giant star map denoting known space was full of red lights. People were congregating around terminals, supervisors were shouting, and managers were trying to regain order and keep the information flowing. Ezekiel bypassed that and went right into the executive conference room that they always used for sensitive meetings. He was one of the last people to arrive.
Senior politicians and military officials, in various states of attire, were moving through the room and doing their own shouting as a smaller, more-detailed holo showed what was happening. Unfortunately, without context, all the PM was looking at were red lights among the stars.
“What have we got?” The PM took the chair at the head of the table. His comment was completely ignored, as his entrance had been. Usually the room was called to attention when the head of the government entered.
Ezekiel felt his face redden in ager. “What have we got?!” This time his voice cut through the chaos and people turned to regard him.
“Sorry, Sir. We didn’t see you there.” High Admiral Gilmore, also fresh off an election victory on Asgard, didn’t get ruffled by the PM’s raised voice. “Everyone take their seats.”
Ezekiel hid his heated cheeks by looking for Connie. She handed him his PAD and pretended to say a few words to him. It bought him time for his embarrassment to pass. The High Admiral had easily quelled the chaos in the room, while Ezekiel just screamed at everyone like a child throwing a tantrum. In didn’t help his mood that Deja Simmons was sitting near the end of the table as a member of the Council’s Military Action Committee. That, and retiring with five golden stripes leant her opinion a lot of weight at the table.
“Sonya, we’ll start with you.” The High Admiral took his seat to the PM’s right as the Commonwealth’s Chief of Naval Intelligence got to her feet.
The ADM looked like she’d run here straight from the gym. Any other time, the PM would have admired her toned athleticism, but right now wasn’t the time. The ADM pushed her sweat-soaked bangs out of her eyes and pointed at the holo.
“At approximately 17:19 New Washington time we received a QE burst from Queensland.” The holo of stars vanished to provide sensor data.
The PM was a novice when it came to reading such data, but even he could see an invasion fleet with one of the Kingdom of Windsor’s massive Superdreadnoughts spearheading the assault.
“So we know where they’re hitting us now,” the PM stated as the data fast forwarded. “We have most of the Eleventh Fleet anchored there as well as the Queensland’s own navy.” Judging by what the PM was seeing the Commonwealth outnumbered the invaders six to one. “If we need to we can call in reinforcements. A task force from Seventh Fleet is on maneuvers five light years away. It’s only two squadrons of battleships and their screening elements, but that’s more firepower to throw at the enemy.”
Admiral Berg let the PM finish before continuing. “Sir,” her voice was grave, “between 17:19 and 17:38 we received twenty one more QE bursts from systems throughout the Commonwealth.” The ADM brought back up the star chart and highlighted the systems in red. Three fourths of the red dots were logical expansions outward from the Kingdom’s homeworld, but eight of them were knives into the heart of the Commonwealth.
<Oh fuck…> The PM’s fears and angers about elections faded as he read the names on those systems. <Queensland…Harper’s Junction…Sacs Prime…and even Premier Etat de Napoléon. They didn’t just hit one place. They’re hitting everywhere.>
As the PM thought about the consequences of the attack for the whole Commonwealth a data dump was received and six more dots were added to the mix. These ones were marked with amber and denoted allied systems under attack.
<Oh god.> The PM realized the Kingdom of Windsor was going for all the marbles.
Currently, thirteen percent of the Commonwealth was under attack. That might not seem like a lot, but it was billions of citizens, tens of trillions of dollars in commerce, an unimaginable amount of private, commercial, and government owned property, not to mention the body blow these military defeats were going to deal military readiness of the Commonwealth and her allies.
“How…?” The PM was only able to get the one word out.
“We know that the Windsor’s made contact with the Hegemony before us. They probably secured credit and standing like we did and used their starter loans to enhance their technological base. My assets have also been talking about a Royal Navy construction yard somewhere outside the Windsor System. We haven’t been able to locate it, but it would seem we’re seeing the fruits of a deacde of labor.”
The PM thought it was a pretty big fruit. The fleet attacking Queensland was only thirty-five warships strong, but they thought they had a pretty good estimate of the Windsor’s Fleet size. If they were willing to throw this much at one of nearly thirty systems they were attacking, then intel’s numbers were way off.
“Good for them,” the PM’s statement was full of bitterness, so he closed his eyes and composed himself. “What’s the worst case scenario here?” he wanted to know that before he looked at more optimistic outcomes.
“Worst case is that we lose all these systems, all our military assets in them, and they defect to the Kingdom. With our own technological upgrades coming in we would be able to mount a counterattack to retake them in twelve to fifteen months.” The ADM didn’t sugar coat it.
“We do think that is unlikely,” the High Admiral jumped in. “Sonya’s own assets have reported that we’re only seeing troop deployment by the Windsor’s on a handful of planets. The QE beacons provided by Gold Technologies are staying on station as long as possible, but their signature is hard to hide. They weren’t built for stealth or maneuverability and are being systematically destroyed. We’re going to need to get more clandestine eyes and ears in the system.”
The PM knew where the High Admiral was going with this. This was exactly what the project he’d been working on was designed for. “Ok, deploy the twenty teams to targets of your choosing.”
“We have nineteen currently deployable, Sir. One is providing security with the delegation.” The High Admiral corrected, but the PM waved off the small change. “We can have them in position within two days to give us more detailed updates, and then we’ll be able to make plans. I’ll put all military forces on high alert in the meantime.”
“Do it.” Ezekiel rubbed his eyes. “Admiral Berg, I need as much intel as humanly possible. We need to know what the Windsor’s goal for all of this was. Was it just a massed attack to tell us to back off, or are they after something more?”
“Yes, Sir.” The ADM nodded.
“Connie, we need to call an emergency session of the Council. Admiral Simmons, as the opposition leader I think we should draft a joint address. The people of the Commonwealth are going to be looking for unity at this time of great peril.”
The retired admiral turned politician nodded. The PM knew, deep down, she would do what was best for the Commonwealth. They just disagreed what that was from policy perspectives, but in this they were united. He wasn’t naïve enough to think two weeks from now her press office would be drafting statements about his failure to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth, but that was a problem for two weeks from now. At this moment, politics had to take a back seat to reality.
“We’ve got a lot of work people. Let’s get to it.” He nodded at the gathered officials and turned to Connie. “Cancel my appearances. We aren’t leaving here until we have this under control and there is good news to tell the press.” He had no idea it would be three full days until he left that CEOC, and even then it was to address the Council, not because there was anything good to share.