2948-03-24 – Tales from the Service: A Rock In the Way
While the Incarnation consolidates at Matusalemme, speculation has been running wild here at Maribel as to where they will strike next. No clear answer has been reached at higher levels of command that we are aware of, but multiple worlds are being given extra resources and FDA manpower to prepare.
Naval Intelligence has received many reports from Navy, FDA, and mercenary auxiliary sources who claim to know with some certainty what the enemy’s next target will be. Obviously, all these contradictory leads can’t be correct at once, and Intelligence is pursuing the most likely leads and feeding the results of their investigations to Fifth Fleet.
One of our readers, who could not reveal her location on security grounds, is convinced that she has been deployed to their next target. Based on information from her account, there are several worlds which she might be posted to – all of them near the direct line between Maribel and Matusalemme. If this is indeed the enemy’s axis of advance, that actually gives me hope – the closer the enemy comes to Maribel, the easier it will be for Fifth Fleet to force a favorable engagement.
For FDA units, this speculation is not an idle way to pass time. These units are mainly composed of light infantry – they are only a few weeks of training removed from local militias, and though they have standardized weapons and uniforms, they have no significant numbers of personnel trained to operate armor-suits, heavy fighting vehicles, or heavy weapons. Without the fleet, FDA has only fortifications and man-portable weaponry with which to take on the Incarnation.
As the last light of the day faded and the blue-black curtain of darkness crossed the sky, Glorinda Eccleston sat in the doorway of her rapid-fab shelter and watched the stars come out.
The glare of work-lights illuminated the construction project behind her ensured that only the brightest stars would appear, but the stars she wanted to see were the local primary’s nearest neighbors. Matusalemme, around which Adimari Valis lay in durance, appeared low over the southern horizon. The bright binary system of Mal Xanthe, one of the great natural lighthouses of the Frontier, peeked over the hills a little while after sunset, both stars clearly visible. Maribel, farther away than Matusalemme, was barely visible over the lights’ glare, but with the help of a pocket smart-optic, Glorinda picked it out anyway, low in the northern sky.
Maribel seemed so far away, and Glorinda shuddered. When the Incarnation came to the world her unit had been sent to – and it would soon, she suspected – they could only draw things out and hope that the battle-fleet orbiting that distant pinprick would sweep in to the rescue, scattering the Incarnation fleet with overwhelming firepower.
That this plan hadn’t worked out for Adimari Valis didn’t sit easy with Glorinda, but she had to put a brave face on for her company. When – really, if – the Navy rode to the rescue, she was the only person in the unit with high-powered, navy-spec comms gear. She could call some of that firepower onto Nate forces on the ground when it arrived – and until then, the FDA’s only heavy weapons not built into surface fortifications would a the hundred-odd disposable mass-driver satellites, each carrying only fifty shots. There was no way that would be enough firepower to defend a planet for long.
“Eccleston, do you have a moment?”
Glorinda jumped. “What-” Captain Moravec had once again snuck up on her – his quiet footfalls and usually quiet voice ensured that the spectacled officer was rarely noticed moving about the chaos of the camp and construction site unless he wanted to be, especially at night. He always seemed to be everywhere when it suited him, and nowhere when it didn’t. “Sorry sir. What do you need?”
“Walk with me.” Moravec, mag-lenses of his glasses glinting in the indirect glow of the work-lights, was otherwise only a slim shadow in the night. Glorinda hopped to her feet and followed him along the main path through the camp, downhill and away from the construction site.
Only after they’d passed the outer perimeter of sentry-posts did he speak again. “How do you know they’re coming here next?”
“Captain, I...” Glorinda hadn’t spoken to anyone about her suspicions. She hadn’t even noted them in her personal log. How had Moravec known?
“You stargaze at dusk every day as if you’re expecting to see something up there change.” Moravec didn’t break his stride, and his quiet voice remained devoid of emotion. “I’m not the only one who knows what you’re thinking. Who told you?”
“Sir, no, it’s nothing like that. Nobody in the fleet tells me anything, and there’s nobody in-system talking on Navy frequencies even if they did. I just have... I guess it’s a hunch.”
Captain Moravec processed this for several seconds, leading her unerringly along one of the winding paths leading down the hill to the heavy-lift landing pad in the valley below. “It’s a hunch that’s got you scared half to death, Eccleston. Lay it out for me.”
“I got to thinking a while back, what does the Incarnation want in the Frontier?” She pointed up to the sky, though her commanding officer probably couldn’t see it. “They don’t want empty worlds, there are plenty of those, and nicer ones than Adimari Valis. They could have had Berkant, for example.”
“Perhaps their leaders want the Xenarch digs. If so, they would never come here.”
“We’ve all seen the psych-briefing on Incarnation ideology. They don’t value things, remember? Best guess I have is that they want people – people as a group, plugged into their head-wire net and obedient to their crusade.”
“Human capital.” Moravec said the phrase with such distaste that he clearly meant it to mean slaves. “Adimari Valis was evacuated before they got it, thank God. But there’s not much population here, either.”
“No.” Glorinda shook her head. “But if they want people, there are only a few places on the Frontier to get them – and from Matusalemme, sir, it seems to me the rock we are standing on is in the way.”
Moravec stopped and looked toward the northern horizon. Glorinda couldn’t see his face, but she could see her logic had made an impression on him.
“I see.” The captain eventually replied. “Thank you, Eccleston. Have you shared this with anyone else?”
“Keep it that way.” He turned on one heel and began leading back toward the camp outskirts. “And just for now, if you’re going to stargaze, at least be cheery about it.”
Glorinda hurried to catch up with her commander. She knew how important her putting a brave face on for the rest of the company was. “I’ll try, Captain.”