2947-07-16 - Tales from the Service: The View From Headquarters

Today's entry is not a narrative account. Two experts from Admiral Zahariev's intelligence apparatus came to visit us as I am completing my various certification courses, and sat down for an unedited interview where we discussed (as was prearranged) what Naval Intelligence knows about our enemy and the situation here on the Frontier. The full audio of the interview will be available on our datasphere hub. Nojus wishes to preface this piece with a warning that he thinks the Colonel was being less forthcoming than she claimed to be at the beginning of the interview. That would not shock me, but I haven't the slightest idea what is making him suspicious.

The four persons involved in this interview are as follows.

D.L.C. - Duncan Chaudhri is a junior editor and wartime head field reporter for Cosmic Background.

N.T.B. Nojus Brand is a long-time explorer, datasphere personality, and wartime field reporter for Cosmic Background.

C.S.D. - Colonel Carolina Durand is the Naval Intelligence attaché to Admiral Zahariev. Despite the name, no apparent relation to Simona Durand, Cosmic Background’s Naval Intelligence liaison on Planet at Centauri. 

H.G.H. - Dr. Hartwin Hirsch is a Naval Intelligence technological research analyst at Maribel Naval Laborarory.

[D.L.C.] Thank you for agreeing to sit down with us for a full interview, Colonel Durant. And thank you for bringing Dr. Hirsch all the way from Maribel. 

[H.G.H.] It was no trouble. 

[C.S.D.] It was more than a favor, Mr. Chaudhri. Your coverage helps the war effort. The more the average Frontier homesteader knows about our enemies, the better we can all be prepared. 

[D.L.C.] You are aware that the transcript of this conversation will be published unedited to our text feed? 

[C.S.D.] Your techs were quite clear about that, yes. 

[D.L.C.] Full disclosure is an odd policy for Naval Intelligence to adopt, if you don’t mind me saying. Usually you guys are slowing stories down rather than bringing them to the datasphere personally. 

[C.S.D.] Yes, that is true. The policies of Naval Intelligence have recently undergone some scrutiny for being overly willing to hide things from the public. Understand we can’t tell you everything we know, and we can’t tell you how we know it, but we have come here to give you and your audience a good idea of what we are up against. 

[N.T.B.] Perhaps we can start with the question everyone’s asking- 

[D.L.C.] Nojus, we talked about- 

[N.T.B.] What do these guys look like? We’ve seen holos of their ships a hundred times, but never a picture of a Sagittarian, alive or dead. 

[C.S.D.] I’m afraid we haven’t captured any. Remember, we have also yet to neutralize one of their Alpha-type warships. 

[D.L.C.] Alpha-type? 

[C.S.D.] The big cruiser-analogues that have been raiding the Coreward Frontier. 

[N.T.B.] Tyrant. 

[D.L.C.] Of course. 

[H.G.H.] I do detest that nickname, and the hypercast drama from which it comes. But please, Mr. Chaudhri, ask your questions. 

[D.L.C.] Dr. Hirsch, Colonel Durant, perhaps you can give us a quick overview of the forces arrayed against the Fifth Fleet. 

[C.S.D.] I can tell you we don’t think there are many of them, compared to the fleet. We estimate less than forty Alpha-type warships total between both sides of the Gap. The problem for us is, they’re optimized for speed and range, and they seem to be in their element in commerce raiding operations. Nothing we have that can catch them can out-shoot them, and nothing that can out-shoot them can catch them. 

[H.G.H.] Their ships are a very odd design. In some ways, they are our equal or superior, and in others, they seem quaintly primitive. In terms of firepower, they are in between our ship classifications. None of our cruiser classes can fight an Alpha-type on equal footing, but neither can they expect to defeat our fleet heavies in the same one-on-one situation. 

[C.S.D.] Our analysis and simulations suggest that if their entire force engaged the assembled Fifth Fleet, the result would be decidedly in our favor. They seem to know it, too – otherwise, they would be more aggressive around Maribel and Håkøya. 

[N.T.B.] You would think commerce raiders would be smaller. Why build them so big? 

[C.S.D.] We think they were built as a conventional war fleet and have been adapted for range and speed. Perhaps originally they were outfitted to patrol outlying systems after a successful war of conquest. 

[D.L.C.] Interesting theory. Do you think the Sagittarians have a relatively large zone of influence on the far side of the Gap? 

[H.G.H.] We can say for sure that they have at least three sites for building ships, or did when these Alphas were built. We’ve analyzed radioisotope content of debris from all the encounters and found three distinct profiles within their armor composite. 

[N.T.B.] Three systems like our Core Worlds. Maybe as thickly populated as Sol or Centauri. 

[H.G.H.] At least. 

[C.S.D.] Their ships are highly homogeneous, suggesting a rather rapid production timeline and proven design. 

[D.L.C.] What about their weapons? From the spacers I’ve talked to, it sounds like they heavily favor beamed energy technology. 

[H.G.H.] Yes. In most cases, their weapons are of types which we usually consider obsolete after the Terran-Rattanai War. Theirs are more sophisticated than those, but not fundamentally different. It makes sense for a long-range ship to favor beamed energy, obviously. They don’t need a means to secure ammunition. They have been observed to fire guided munitions similar to our capital torpedoes, but the launchers are few in number and not significantly more effective than our own. 

[N.T.B.] And screening projectors? I’ve heard strike pilots swear they flew right through a Tyrant’s screens. 

[H.G.H.] The Alphas do have spatial screening arrays as our own warships do, but all our data indicates that they are installed in a parabolic arrangement rather than an ellipsoidal one. 

[D.L.C.] Hold on. They have screens, but they don’t cover the ship? 

[C.S.D.] Four projector arrays per ship, arranged to point out in all directions. They dedicate an unusual amount of power per ship ton to screening systems, and get far less protection from them than our ships do. That’s why they need those huge armor installations on parts of the hull, but not others. 

[N.T.B.] Even for a critter stupid enough to attack the Confederated Worlds, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. They must do it for a reason. 

[D.L.C.] Nojus- 

[H.G.H.] No, he’s right. We don’t know why they do that, but we do think that it is a choice rather than an inability to configure their arrays the way we do. 

[N.T.B.] But you don’t know why yet, do you?

[C.S.D.] Not yet. 

[H.G.H.] We need more data, unfortunately. 

[D.L.C.] Do we know anything about their society? 

[C.S.D.] We can make a few guesses. My xenosociologists think the Sagittarians live in a highly regimented society, and their preference for disruptive commerce raiding over direct combat suggests their stellar empire runs with far less surplus productivity than our own, probably with all lanes leading through their central planet. 

[N.T.B.] How’d the boys come up with that one? 

[C.S.D.] Simple. If they think the best way to bring a rival power to its knees is by cutting the spacelanes, that must be something they recognize could theoretically happen to them. 

[D.L.C.] If their society was as distributed as the cultures of the Colonial Reach, the idea wouldn’t even come into their heads. 

[C.S.D.] That’s the idea. It is only guesswork for the moment. 

[D.L.C.] Why do you think they interest the Ladeonists so much? 

[C.S.D.] We think they’ve been waiting a long time for the right circumstance. The Sagittarian trouble might keep the military and civilian authorities distracted enough for them to make gains. They probably hope the Confederacy will deal with them to buy peace on the other borders until the Sagittarians are dealt with. 

[N.T.B.] Bastards. You don’t think there’s anything they want on the Frontier except trouble? 

[H.G.H.] My opinion is – and it is only an opinion – that this is an opportunistic push for them, nothing more. It’s been almost ten years since the last major Ladeonist uprising. 

[C.S.D.] It might have been that at first, but I have a hunch that they’ve had better luck talking to the Sagittarians than we have. Ladeonist terrorism and Sagittarian raids never seem to sabotage each other. 

[D.L.C.] A concerning thought. 

[N.T.B.] As I said, bastards. 

[D.L.C.] What of their goals in this war? This isn’t about borders; they sent their ships to our side of the Gap. 

[C.S.D.] We have no idea. If it were about borders, you would expect that Terran ships might have found a Sagittarian colony on their side of the Gap. So far, no surveyor or Navy scout has seen a colony. If it was about conquest, they would attempt to annex systems. It’s more likely to be a sort of honor-seeking adventurism, but they don’t rob what they destroy, and they take no trophies. 

[H.G.H.] Based on their behavior, the only possibility I have considered but not discounted is that some human explorer bruised their cultural ego and started some sort of blood feud, but I can’t imagine how that might have happened on such a scale. 

[N.T.B.] Why do we assume their motives will be comprehensible to Terrans at all? 

[H.G.H.] Every empire-building species yet encountered has motivation patterns which Terrans can describe, even if we cannot sympathize with them. Their ships conform to our design aesthetics quite closely, and their machinery design is quite similar to our own line of development. This leads me to conclude that they are more similar to Terran stock than we know. Perhaps more similar even than the Atro’me. 

[C.S.D.] Hartwin, that is not your department. 

[H.G.H.] Sorry, Colonel. 

[N.T.B.] What about- 

[C.S.D.] Unfortunately, that is all the time we have for this interview. 

[D.L.C.] Ah, that’s too bad. Thank you two for joining us, all the same. 

[H.G.H.] A pleasure, Mr. Chaudhri. 

[C.S.D.] Thank you for having us. We must do this again as soon as we have new information to share. 

[D.L.C.] We’d appreciate that, and so would the audience.