2949-11-09 – Tales from the Service: The View from Headquarters, Part 5

While there has been a lot of datasphere activity relating to the Berkant situation since last week, things here have largely remained unchanged. Berkant’s civilian population has been almost totally evacuated, leaving only the core governmental functions and a local system authority militia on the surface. A large F.D.A. force, mainly brought in-system aboard Sovereign Security chartered vessels due to the controversy regarding Margaux, has been streaming in to reinforce the existing garrison as well, along with several Marine regiments. Though the planet is not nearly as well fortified as Margaux itself was, the anticipated size of the enemy landing force brought by the fleet at Hallman is also far less overwhelming than the one which trudged through the bloody, caustic canyons of that world. 

I have been trying to get an interview with someone on Admiral Zahariev’s staff since Fifth Fleet arrived here, but understandably they have been quite busy. Admiral Zahariev remains so preoccupied, but as in the past, his adviser Bozsi Kirke-Moore has agreed to sit down with us. This interview was conducted in-person aboard  

As is usual for interviews conducted by this embed team, the audio recording can be found on the Cosmic Background datasphere hub. 

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.    

B.K.M. - Captain Bozsi Kirke-Moore is a former pirate who has experience with asymmetric warfare in the Coreward Frontier, serving as an adviser to Admiral Zahariev. His rank is provisional, as he has never held it in Navy service prior to his recent appearance on the Fifth Fleet staff. 

[D.L.C.]Thank you for agreeing to talk with us today, Captain Kirke-Moore. I can’t imagine the stress you and the rest of the fleet staff have been under the past few weeks. 

[B.K.M.] - To be fully honest with you, Mr. Chaudhri, I was against the idea. Reneer suggested I sit down with you and your team again due to the datasphere controversy regarding the stand-off here at Berkant. There’s a lot of misinformation being passed around. 

[D.L.C.]Why don’t we start with the controversy, then. Navy observers back in the Core Worlds have been complaining about a lack of offensive spirit in the Fifth Fleet command. For them, the idea that our fleet can exist in the same system with a lesser enemy force for so long without a resulting battle is proof enough of this lack. Admiral Zahariev has his defenders in some of the same circles, and the arguments between these two camps have boiled over into a conflict that almost seems to be as fierce as the shooting war. 

[N.T.B.]I take it you think the admiral’s defenders are closer to the truth? 

[B.K.M.] - On the contrary, Mr. Brand. Using only publicly available information, those criticizing a lack of aggressiveness on the part of this command make the more persuasive and least deceptive argument. I don’t agree with their argument, but this is because I am party to information they do not have, and I think they largely argue from the reasonable position of wishing to see the war reach a speedy and victorious conclusion. 

[D.L.C.] - Wait a moment. You think the Zahariev critics are wrong, but you’re here to dispel myths created by his defenders? 

[C.S.D.]Within the limitations of fleet information security, yes. From the point of view of keeping the public well informed, the most dangerous arguments are those which reach the correct conclusion for the wrong reasons. 

[D.L.C.] I suppose in a heated conversation like this one, it is all too easy for things to fall into team sports where it’s tough to call out the bad arguments of someone on “your” side. 

[B.K.M.] - Quite right.  

[N.T.B.] - So if Admiral Zahariev’s defenders are making bad arguments or pushing misinformation, will correcting the record result in more visibility and attention paid to his detractors? 

[B.K.M.] - In a sense yes, but Reneer wanted me to assure you both that this is all right and that the Navy is always happy to allow the public to criticize its efforts. Apparently, admirals are trained to expect the public not having all the information, and he’s perhaps one of the most experienced in this regard. 

[N.T.B.] - You’re referring to the part he played in your own recently interrupted retirement, I presume. 

[B.K.M.] - Ah, You’ve been reading too many conspiracy dramas, Mr. Brand. My retirement from my first profession was my own choice. 

[N.T.B.] - But- 

[D.L.C.] - Captain Kirke-Moore, what do you think is the most troublesome of the myths pushed by the admiral’s supporters in the datasphere media? 

[B.K.M.] - The most troublesome? Most probably the allegation that Fifth Fleet is adopting a strategy of giving up space and planets to save lives and ships for a major battle closer to the fleet bases of Farthing’s Chain. While this does seem like a sensible strategy to the armchair admirals on the datasphere, it has the potential to cause mass panic on worlds like Maribel. To be clear, it would be impossible to execute that in reality. The major population centers of the inner Frontier, including Maribel and Håkøya, cannot be practically evacuated as we have depopulated Berkant in recent weeks, and I’ve seen several of these commentators suggesting that those worlds can be as easily depopulated as Berkant or Mereena 

[C.S.D.] - Fifth Fleet’s orders from the Admiralty Council have not changed in this respect since the beginning of the war. Those worlds will be defended to the last ship and spacer, if necessary. 

[D.L.C.] - I receive a lot of worried messages from Maribelans every week. I’m sure they will be reassured to know that they won’t be called on to be evacuated. 

[B.K.M.] - Sadly, some of those who believe they have divined the intent of Reneer’s strategy seem to have come very close to stoking panic. I suspect most do not realize what they are doing. 

[N.T.B.] - What about those who say that Zahariev is only commanding a blocking force, and that Seventh Fleet is preparing an offensive toward the Incarnation home worlds? I hear that a lot more often than the one you mentioned, and it does make a lot more sense. 

[B.K.M.] - Frankly, if this were true, it would come as quite a relief to Reneer and myself. Unfortunately, Seventh Fleet is still an odd collection of old ships and untested ones, all crewed largely by green spacers. They can and will be as much trouble on the other side of the Gap for the Incarnation as they can be, but recapturing the occupied portions of the Coreward Frontier and crippling the Incarnation’s ability to threaten the Meriwether and Nye Norge regions remains the Navy’s primary offensive goal. 

[C.S.D.] - Fifth Fleet and Seventh Fleet both have their parts to play, but the fight back to liberate the planets we’ve lost can only start once the enemy fleet parked at Hallman suffers a defeat and loses ships. Once that happens, Seventh Fleet is responsible for delaying and diverting any reinforcements sent to this side of the Gap. 

[D.L.C.] - Yes, we’ve talked to the Seventh Fleet staff, as I’m sure you know. 

[B.K.M.] - I have read the public portions of your correspondence with Admiral Abarca and his people, yes. 

[D.L.C.] Are there any other potentially dangerous misrepresentations you’d like to correct, Captain Kirke-Moore? 

[B.K.M.]  - There is one more that bothers me, though it bothers Reneer much less. Some of those who defend Fifth Fleet’s leadership decisions sometimes say that since the character of this conflict is primarily defensive, that a defensively-minded admiral is exactly what is needed. That logic would make good sense, except that in the decades I’ve known Reneer Zahariev, including the years where he chased me from one end of Meriwether to the other, I’ve never known him to be defensively minded. He’s always looking for ways to take the offensive and seize the initiative. Indeed, I would hardly have any role in a defensively-minded fleet staff. 

[C.S.D.] - The Navy has many good defensive-warfare specialists, and has never considered Admiral Zahariev to be among them. He is where he is because the Admiralty Council knows he’ll take any reasonable opportunity to go on the offensive against the Incarnation fleet. 

[D.L.C.] - I had wondered about those particular arguments myself. 

[N.T.B.] - Fifth Fleet is many things, but a defensive outfit does seem to be a bit of a stretch. 

[B.K.M.] - Indeed. Unfortunately, gentlemen, I’ve just received a priority summons and must cut this short. Let us all hope that by the time we speak next, a victory here in Berkant will have done more to dispel these arguments than any clearing of the air interview could. 

[D.L.C.] - I understand, and thank you again for speaking with us.