2949-08-24 – Tales from the Service: The View from Headquarters, Part 4
Duncan here. Since some of the stories I’ve been working on are still stuck in the workload queue of our Naval Intelligence liaison officer, I reached out to Colonel Iantha Platt, the Seventh Fleet staff representative in Admiral Zahariev’s headquarters, to see if we could set up a cross-Gap interview with the Seventh Fleet’s top brass, as we’ve done in the past with Fifth Fleet representatives.
While the limited bandwidth of the Gap-spanning links in the Hypercomm network precluded a properly real time conference, Nojus and I spent the better part of a shift exchanging audio messages with the Seventh Fleet headquarters in Sagittarius Gate. The following transcript is accurate, though the time between message and reply was in most cases several minutes long.
And yes, before anyone goes around the datasphere claiming we’re stirring up trouble, we cleared this exchange with Fifth Fleet headquarters beforehand.
This interview was conducted remotely via exchange of audio recordings, and its participants are listed below.
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.
K.T.K. - Captain Kenneth Kempf is the Naval Intelligence attaché to Seventh Fleet commander Admiral Shun Abarca. Kempf contributed to this interview remotely from the battleship Philadelphia at Sagittarius Gate.
S.R.A. - Admiral Shun R. Abarca is the commander of the Philadelphia battle-group and interim commander of the Seventh Fleet, pending a permanent assignment by the admiralty council. Abarca contributed to this interview remotely from the battleship Philadelphia at Sagittarius Gate.
[D.L.C.] Admiral Abarca, Captain Kempf, thank you for speaking to us, even remotely.
[K.T.K.] It’s a pleasure to talk to you, Mr. Chaudhri. I’m familiar with how you’ve conducted this sort of interview with representatives of Fifth Fleet, and I appreciate your organization’s candor and willingness to cooperate with Naval Intelligence secrecy procedures.
[N.T.B.] It’s not always easy. Naval Intelligence has its hands full these days, or so I hear.
[K.T.K.] Yes, especially in your area. While I’m not briefed on the situation in detail, I would speculate that it’s probably to do with the intraservice disputes going on in the Fifth Fleet area of operations. Naval Intelligence is trying to prevent any news reporting from inflaming those disagreements further while the Admiralty mediates them.
[S.R.A.] Seventh Fleet’s front has not had any of the same disputes that Fifth Fleet is suffering. I’d love to claim my headquarters has developed a solution to the problems Fifth Fleet has encountered fighting the Incarnation, but the simple fact is that the forces under Seventh Fleet have no colonies to defend – all our forces are concentrated at Sagittarius Gate, a system with no planets. We’d have had the same problems if my staff’s and Zahariev’s were reversed, because we are following the same doctrine.
[D.L.C.] So you think bad doctrine is what caused the disaster at Margaux?
[S.R.A.] It has a number of factors. Confederated Navy doctrine is tailored to fighting non-peer opponents, because since the middle of the Terran-Rattanai War that’s all we’ve fought or expected to fight. For all their martial skill and formidable warship designs, even the Rahl Hegemony can’t expect to match our fleets qualitatively or quantitatively if we should ever go to war with them. That has led to a hundred years of plans and training focused on forcing smaller enemy forces to fight on our terms.
[K.T.K.] The idea of tying a fleet down by forcing them to commit to a ground invasion is based on what happened to the Rattanai armada after the invasion of Earth. Had they simply bombarded Earth from orbit as they did to Barbora, they could probably have won that war, Angels or no.
[N.T.B.] Sacrificing a world to kill a fleet seems a cold decision.
[S.R.A.] Admittedly so, but the idea was that if the ground could be prepared beforehand, as it was on Margaux, the cost to civilian population and infrastructure would be light. Throughout history, many seemingly unstoppable invaders have failed by committing to a lengthy siege of prepared fortifications. I was a junior officer on many staff college studies of the scenario years ago. If anything, I would have committed to it even more than Admiral Zahariev. He has been remarkably flexible in his approach, perhaps due to the influence of Captain Kirke-Moore.
[N.T.B.] Unofficially, I have heard grumbling from the middle-rank officer corps of the Fifth Fleet. about the slashing hit and run raids. They call them “Samarkand Sallies” and think they’re distracting the fleet headquarters from planning a proper offensive.
[S.R.A.] Admiral Zahariev took a great risk bringing Kirke-Moore into his staff, but I think if he hadn’t, things would be far worse than they are. As for what the Fifth Fleet staff is or isn’t working on, though: simply put, I don’t know. We try to compartmentalize as much as possible for security reasons.
[D.L.C.] What about on your front? We’ve covered the relief of the Lost Squadrons extensively, but we haven’t heard much from Sagittarius since then. What’s been happening there?
[S.R.A.] The Incarnation is always probing the Sagittarius Gate system. Most days, there are two or even three Tyrants sitting in the outer fringe of the system, keeping an eye on us. They send strike raids to harry our supply ships if they see an opening, but if we send ships out toward them, they jump out of the system.
[K.T.K.] Why they don’t just park a few stealthy cutter-analogues at Sagittarius Gate to watch us is still a mystery. My best guess is, they’re trying to tie down the bulk of the Seventh Fleet. As long as they’re skulking around, we would have to split our forces to expand our beachhead in Sagittarius, or lose the supply base.
[S.R.A.] We’ve managed to send out a few scouting squadrons to neighboring systems, but Sagittarius Gate juts out from the edge of the Sagittarius Arm, so anything we send out has a long way to go.
[D.L.C.] My understanding is that your fleet is still small compared to the others, with only three battleships to its name, two of them quite old. What would happen if the Incarnation sent a force to Sagittarius Gate of similar size to what they sent to Margaux?
[S.R.A.] True, the Seventh Fleet battle line is still not complete. We’re at least as strongly equipped with heavy cruisers and carriers as any other fleet in the Confederated Navy, and we have the fixed defenses of the Sagittarius Gate installations. At the very least, it would be a very interesting engagement. We’re expecting to receive a new battleship early next year.
[N.T.B.] I’m guessing that would be the Maribel?
[K.T.K.] It’s not official, but yes, Maribel is most likely. The fleet does not finalize assignments until after a ship has completed trials, of course.
[S.R.A.] With four battleships, even if two are older, and with the increasing defenses of the fleet base, we’ll have the firepower to defend Sagittarius Gate and also strike out toward the habitable systems nearest to us. I expect that when we do that, the Incarnation pressure on the Fifth Fleet and Coreward Frontier will ease considerably – after all, they have home-world somewhere not far from here; they will need to defend them.
[D.L.C.] So you expect a turn in fortunes early next year?
[S.R.A.] That is what I hope and pray for, yes. War is of course never predictable, so I will only say that I and all my officers and spacers will do what we can.
[N.T.B.] What do you plan to do with the Lost Squadrons personnel? My understanding is that they’ve been assigned to your fleet.
[S.R.A.] About a third of them have been reassigned to postings on Seventh Fleet ships already. Many of the vessels in the fleet left the Core Worlds quickly, and as a result arrived at Sagittarius Gate slightly under-crewed. The rest are scheduled to be assigned to vessels that are already on their way here, excepting a few senior officers who are transferring back to the Core Worlds for teaching and staff rotations.
[D.L.C.] Has what they learned during their ordeal changed your strategy or tactics any?
[K.T.K.] I will answer for Admiral Abarca in saying that while there are changes to the procedures of both Fifth and Seventh Fleets derived from debriefing Lost Fleets personnel, we cannot release the details.
[S.R.A.] Sorry, Mr. Chaudhri. I will say that I am honored to have the Lost Fleets spacers in my command, and that I only hope to show as much tenacity and courage in action as they have.
[K.T.K.] I second that. Naval Intelligence passed on more than a hundred merit recommendations after debriefing the survivors of the Lost Squadrons, but if you ask me they should all get a medal.
[N.T.B.] Damned right, if half of what I've heard is true.
[S.R.A.] While it has been a pleasure, gentlemen, I have other duties to attend to. Perhaps we can do this again in a few months.
[D.L.C.] I would like that, Admiral.