2949-05-11 – Tales from the Service: The Spaceport Drill

While Navy releases about the third battle at Margaux have still been relatively limited, it seems the Fifth Fleet experienced only limited heavy-unit casualties before withdrawing from Margaux orbit. One Confederated light cruiser is confirmed destroyed (Fearcoast Diver) and two others damaged, but most of the casualties seem to have been the fleet screen - destroyers and fast frigates – which absorbed both the pounding of the new Jericho strike bombers and the close-range gunfire of the cruisers which rushed to exploit the resulting breakup of the Fifth Fleet formation.

While more than two dozen hulls lost can hardly be regarded as a small toll, keep in mind that a Navy destroyer or frigate has a crew of a few dozen or fifty at the most, where a cruiser, even a light cruiser, tends to take at least 150 souls with it when its reactor detonates. The human toll – and the degradation of Fifth Fleet’s offensive striking power – was quite limited, and will be easily made good. None of the seven battleships committed there suffered serious damage, and other than Diver, no major fleet units were lost.

The Navy claims to have destroyed two Tyrant cruisers and disabled two or perhaps three more in the process of the confused battle, with other enemy vessels present suffering minor damage. Unfortunately, the battle, like the last two, left the Incarnation’s fleet in possession of Margaux, and the battle did not permit supporting forces the time to significantly reinforce or to evacuate the Margaux groundside defenders.

A controversy appears to be brewing between the commandant of the Confederated Marines and the admiralty Triumvirate about Admiral Zahariev’s decision not to seek further battle, but I don’t have too many details about that. If it is about Margaux (and I cannot see how it could be otherwise) Frontier Defense Army supreme headquarters on Maribel is very likely to join this war of words on the Marines’ side, and most likely their reports, notoriously more free with information than either of the other services, will be where we in the datacast media hear most of the details.

This week, with Admiral Zahariev’s command staff still out at Margaux with the fleet, we cannot bring you another View from Headquarters interview, and Naval Intelligence has embargoed several interesting accounts sent our way from those who participated in the most recent battle. Instead, I have an account of the Incarnation defector known as Yianna (not her real name). Though not the first Immortal captured and persuaded to cooperate with Naval Intelligence, Yianna is the only one prepared for terroristic warfare, and also the only one who defected willingly. Evidently, with security on Maribel at an all-time high, she has been involved in security exercises with the spaceport city’s constabulary, testing their readiness for similar agents active on the world to sow chaos in the event of an invasion of the system.

According to Farrokh West, the head of spaceport security, it seems these law enforcement agencies are learning the that they have a long way to go. We can only hope they learn quickly.

The cold blade which pressed against Farrokh’s neck might have been as blunt as a gunstock, but he raised his hands off his console slowly anyway. Knowing the intrusion was an exercise didn’t stop his blood from running cold. “Yianna, I assume?”

The woman holding the knife spun Farrokh’s chair around and stood back, flipping the blunt blade over and offering it to him handle-first. Farrokh thought her attractive, in a severe sort of way, though her features were hopelessly marred by the intrusion of a gleaming sickle-curve of metal across her right temple and extending down toward her eye. “Good guess. Out of the chair.”

Farrokh got up and stood aside, taking the knife from the woman as she took his place. He was “dead” for the purposes of the security exercise, so he didn’t try to send any comms messages or alter his status. Even if the intrusion had been real and a sharper blade had slid between his ribs to perforate his heart, the sensors built into his identity badge would take two minutes to detect his death and alert anyone.

Yianna’s fingers flew across the console as she called up every command interface available under Farrokh’s access session and tried each one to see which required authentication she could not bypass. Most resisted, but a distressing number of functions surrendered to her will, and soon alarm indicators lit up the overhead status board as various parts of the spaceport security grid either shut down or started behaving in chaotic fashion.

As the turncoat enemy agent sowed her seeds of discord in the Maribel Spaceport’s usually tidy information systems, Farrokh watched her carefully. Though her hands moved over the console far more rapidly than an unmodified human could manage, and she clearly read the displays far faster than he ever could, she otherwise seemed relatively human. He’d been informed Yianna would participate in some of the week’s exercises, but he hadn’t expected to ever come face-to-face with her.

“Well that’s something in your favor.” Yianna paused her rapid-fire commands to show Farrokh the pumping-station readouts, overlaid with a prominent error message. “I can’t blow the whole complex into orbit from here, can I?”

“I would hope not.” Farrokh rarely touched the pumping systems which moved volatile fuels around the spaceport, so he generally didn’t maintain an active session to those systems. While most larger craft used gravitic engines to reach orbit, smaller and older vessels often used liquid-fuel boosters to supplement their main drive in the scramble for orbital velocity to match the numerous stations and habitats orbiting Maribel. If Yianna had access to those systems, she could very well destroy most of the spaceport, and probably significant parts of the surrounding city.

“I’ll have to do it another way, then.” Yianna stood. “You can trigger your death indicator. Keep the souvenir.”

Farrokh looked down at the curio she’d handed him for the first time. It looked a bit like a miniature of the Marines’ combat knife, with a broad, straight-backed blade and a prominent crossguard. On a sharp example, the clipped point would probably be wickedly harp, but on this one, it came only to a rounded nub. It was a useless trinket, but given how easily it might have been the weapon that killed him under slightly different circumstances, he appreciated its harmlessness more than he might have valued a functional cutting edge.

When Farrokh looked up once more, Yianna was gone. He spun in place, but found no sign of her except the open security door leading into the corridor. She hadn’t made a sound entering, and had been equally silent in departure. He did as instructed, triggering the control on his wrist computer that would simulate an identity-badge death-alert in the security system, not doubting that if there was a way to destroy the entire spaceport – even in simulation only – Yianna would find it.