“Ferris, the iron wall of the Union. Oh how you sacrifice for us, to this very day.”
Looking out of a false window in her shuttle, an LCD with a feed of their surroundings, Premier Bhavani Jayasankar mused on the region farthest from her direct influence. A rocky, mountainous, grey place, lightless place at the bottom of the Ocean. While the political center of the Union lay in Solstice, its military heart was the border of Ferris.
This austere place was where their truest warriors were born and lived.
Soldiers from all around the Union mustered at Ferris to defend the border.
“Did the Empire underestimate us? Or did we overestimate them? I wonder–“
Amid this mobilization, the Premier herself was also summoned.
Beyond just speeches and reassurances, she wanted to see Ferris for herself. She would give nobody the excuse of saying she hid in Solstice while the border turned hot. A few days had passed since the battle, and she had made the journey as soon as she could. Her trip was public knowledge and there were a lot of appearances she planned to make with military and civilians.
There were also a few private matters she needed to take care of.
“Nagavanshi always gets out ahead of me somehow.” She said to herself.
Her reflection in the glass began to wane.
In the distance, the center of human life in Ferris took her place in the murky picture.
Thassal Station stood like a deformed pillar rising high above rolling hills of pockmarked stone and stripped out ore quarries. Reinforced titanium modules and the occasional glass hexagon made up the habitats, berths and weapons stations that stuck out all around the central rock formation, at once grafted upon the surface but also upholding it. Deep in the center of the mound, a Core Pylon served as a foundation, shouldering the lives built up over the rock, tethering everything, and hiding the Agarthicite reactors. It was their purple glow that made this life possible.
“And there’s my first destination.”
Sitting on the rock next to Thassal Station was a massive structure. Like a bubble of glass and metal, resting atop a massive base laden with berths, to which dozens of ships were docked. Premier Jayasankar recalled the glowing report she gave at the start of the year about the expansion of agriculture in Lyser, and how this structure represented it. Now it was going to be used for war.
It was in this Agri-Sphere that she would decide the Union’s next military actions.
Dragged in from Lyser, this sphere now served as “Hammer-1,” temporary base of the expanded Ferris fleet. Thousands of personnel had arrived at Hammer-1 to organize logistics and supply, to run maintenance and to build stockpiles. As it was originally intended for agriculture, both hydroponic and with treated soil mediums, Hammer-1 was divided into flat, broad stories with rows of adjustable space and a lot of lamps. All of it was now taken up by cranes, Divers, shipping containers and makeshift warehousing. People were hard at work to make it war worthy.
Amid this build-up, Premier Jayasankar’s shuttle arrived at Hammer-1.
Alone, without bodyguards or attendants, she headed into the depths of the structure.
As far as anyone knew, she was much too early for her first public appearance.
She was right on time for Nagavanshi’s secretive little meeting.
A meeting that could decide the fate of the Union, she had said.
Arriving in a dark room, she became part of a troika of powerful interests in the Union. Gathered around a large table equipped with a touchscreen surface, they were there to discuss the direction of the Union in the face of imminent war with the Empire. At Nagavanshi’s behalf, they would examine all of the intelligence they had on the Empire’s direction and formulate a plan.
Vain as it was, Bhavani believed herself foremost among the attendants. She was a vision of self-control and professionalism, casually confident in expression, her face only lightly weathered with experience despite her years. Tall and athletic, with her hair in a bun and wearing a black synthetic suit with dark tinted glasses, she resembled her own bodyguard more than she did a desk worker. She was the people’s Premier. She walked among them easily and casually.
Her reflection on the table was magnificent, and she felt in command of everything.
“Commissar-General, and Grand Admiral” Jayasankar bowed her head lightly toward her two counterparts. “We last met to discuss what a good year it had been for shipbuilding and agriculture. I can’t help but wonder if we are all being punished for the barest hint of complacency at the moment. Our shipbuilding is far too slow for our predicament, and now our agricultural plans are also on hold. Nevertheless, I want it to be clear that I believe in us. Let’s not be too doom and gloom.”
Grand Admiral Sorokin Klasnikov was the only man in attendance. He was a tall, bronzed gentleman with a full beard, pristinely in uniform. His beard was quite long and flowed with a greater breadth even than the hair on his head. He kept his hands behind his back and stood firmly.
“Premier, it is good to see you in cheerful spirits, despite everything,” began the Admiral, soft spoken, “I don’t believe Eloah is so merciless as to fault us for merely being optimistic.”
Commissar-General Nagavanshi meanwhile looked the youngest in the room. She had suggested they hold this meeting but hid her feelings about it behind a careful, neutral expression.
“Well, Admiral, I don’t believe in any Gods, as this Union is beyond such mysticism.”
Nagavanshi had a talent for sounding both polite and openly contemptuous.
Her face lacked even the subtle crow’s feet evident around Jayasankar’s eyes and lips, and she was very obviously of a nearer vintage than the pockmarked old Klasnikov. Her hair flowed freely from under her peaked cap, adorned with a golden serpent, and her rich brown skin had an even sheen as if it had been laid over body uniformly, unmarred by light or touch.
Her golden eyes seemed bottomless, like they might devour what they viewed.
“Everything that is happening is a result of material forces that are well understood.”
She spoke quite casually, and Klasnikov looked ready to snap at her.
Premier Jayasankar interrupted before anyone could continue that particular topic.
“Religion is something best not discussed among friends.”
She swiped her fingers over the computer screen set into the middle of the table.
A map of the Nectaris and Imbrium Oceans appeared on the screen. The Premier touched closer to the north Imbrium sea, where the Occultis continental line separated the North Imbrium, ruled mostly by the Empire, with the northwestern end of the Cognitum Ocean: waters that the mighty Republic shared with a few other states. The Great Ayre Reach, an expanse of calm water, with simple geography at shockingly low depth, separated the Empire and the Republic.
Ayre could have been a powerful economic asset for the Republic, able to sustain several stations on flat, easy ground within a stable climate, but instead it had been the stage of the Republic’s righteous aggression against the Empire for what seemed like eternity. Every few decades there was a terrifying campaign over the Great Ayre Reach that ended in crushing Republic defeats, allowing the Empire to occupy the Reach and block the Republic’s access to the Imbrium Ocean, until the next time the mighty foes exchanged it. A communist scholar, Mordecai, once believed that the Empire and the Republic did battle over the Reach in order to destroy surplus production of goods and stymie political and social progress.
That last point was neither here nor there, but it was on Jayasankar’s mind as she surveyed the map.
“Anyone have the early score from the latest Empire vs. Republic game?” She asked.
Nagavanshi glanced over to Klasnikov, with a bored look on her face.
Klasnikov gave her a critical look back. He cleared his throat loudly.
“Our intelligence indicates that the Republic brought 800 ships divided into five fleets to the Ayre Reach. The Empire brought the Grand Western Fleet. The latest estimated strength for that formation was 1000 ships divided in seven fleets. It is our understanding the Empire won.”
“Of course they did.” Nagavanshi said.
“We should not act as if this was all foretold.” Klasnikov said. “It was not merely numbers that sealed the fate of the Ayre Reach. From information we gathered over the past few days, the Republic made major strategic missteps. They feared being too outnumbered, so they adopted a wide formation to try to cover Imperial flanking attacks. This allowed the Imperials to use their numbers in a different way. Instead of matching the breadth of the Republic deployment, they concentrated their attack and crushed the Republic center, isolating the wings of the formation.”
Nagavanshi scoffed. “At that point, the Republic should have swung a trap around them.”
“We can say what we want from the comfort of this chamber.” Klasnikov said. He seemed almost to pity the Republic forces. “Perhaps if they had fought on, they could have used the wings of the formation to inflict bitter damage on the Imperials. But that would have been asking troops to sacrifice their lives when they had come prepared to fight on even terms. You can’t pretend you were laying bait for the enemy just because it becomes convenient; preparing bait means that the bait was prepared for its role. For the Republic forces, they saw hundreds of their ships and thousands of their comrades killed in front of them. I can’t fault them for escaping at that point.”
“I can.” Nagavanshi said. “Because the ones picking up the pieces could soon be us. Some allies the Republic have turned out to be! Don’t give that look Klasnikov — I read the same acoustic messages you did. I don’t need explanations.” She raised an accusatory finger at the Admiral. “The Republic had a center of 200 ships and wings of 300 ships a piece. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by fleeing instead of pressing into Fueller’s flank and crushing him.”
“As far as the Republic’s politics are concerned, they don’t win from just killing the Prince if they have to sacrifice 800 ships to do so.” Klasnikov said. “They aren’t like you, Nagavanshi. You can isolate and kill an individual with your spies and thugs, but you can’t do it with a fleet.”
Nagavanshi narrowed her eyes at Klasnikov.
Jayasankar then raised her hand like a student in a classroom, smiling.
“Everyone is getting so spirited but let us move beyond the hypotheticals. The Republic has suffered another defeat and the Empire will again occupy the breadth of the Ayre Reach. They would still need to cross the North Occultis canal to advance, so the Republic will be fine. In fact they probably won’t even try to move farther than Ayre Reach. Ratha Flow is too fortified for the Empire to press on into the core Republic territory an ocean away. My concern is that if this battle did not hurt the Empire too, too much, we will be the next target. Am I correct in my assumption?”
“You very well could be.” Klasnikov said.
“No, you are absolutely wrong.”
Nagavanshi procured a series of documents and slid them across the table.
This was a symbolic gesture more than anything, because the table itself scanned the documents as they crossed and was able to project all of their data on tabbed windows close to the other meeting participants. By the time the papers’ momentum stopped just short of Jayasankar she was already reading what had been scanned. She brought her hand up to her hair to fidget.
Should the information in those papers prove correct then yes, Jayasankar’s assumption might be very wrong. It was not in her character to get giddy over every piece of idle speculation that came her way, however. So after reading the information, she turned her gaze on the head of the Ashura security and intelligence forces, Nagavanashi, who clearly knew more than she let on.
It had been her all along who suggested this meeting, after all.
Klasnikov, meanwhile, was reaching for the papers themselves as if he could not trust the scanner to have gotten the information correct. He flipped through all the papers, brow furrowing.
“Parvati, your most prominent source is this girl from the wreck of the Strasser. I assume you corroborated this news with other survivors from the Imperial fleet, and you’ve got your own tricks for finding information far afield. I want to know what other sources you have that you aren’t writing about on the record, and what information you’ve learned beyond this one event.”
Despite Jayasankar’s tact in describing it, this event was no small matter.
Nagavanshi did not convene meetings unless her information was explosive.
According to the documents, rescue teams found a survivor from the Imperial Fleet, who had connections among the nobility and military. In exchange for her life, not knowing that the Union intended to imprison rather than execute her, she attested to the Emperor having fallen with a terminal illness and being pronounced all but officially dead. The Grand Duchies, the major states that made up the Empire’s territory, were eager to back their own claimants to the throne. All of this, while Prince Erich von Fueller, the heir apparent, was off in the Great Ayre Reach fighting the Republic. According to the source, the reason for the Southern Border Fleet’s attack on the Union was the ambition of Admiral Gottwald to form his own faction in the coming strife.
He had been too eager, however, and suffered resounding defeat against the Union. He was killed in Thassal.
For the Emperor to be gone so suddenly was monumental.
For as little as the Premier made it seem in her casual speech, this was earthshaking news.
Upon the eve of his coup, Konstantin von Fueller had dared the aristocracy to move against him.
For almost fifty years they slumbered under his control. Now he was dead: and now, they would awaken.
“Mere imperial troops would not have had access to that kind of information. That would have only been known to Admirals and their associates, as they freely cavort with the aristocracy in a way that none below their rank are truly able to. So there was no need to interrogate the lower ranking survivors. Simply put, I trust the girl’s information. I believe we should act on it. By the time more overt signs of its veracity manifest themselves we may be too late to take advantage.”
Nagavanshi was prepared for the questioning.
After all, she did not get to her own position without being meticulously confident in her words. As necessary as intelligence agents and internal security were for the Union, the power invested in them meant that not just anybody could be given the position. Her predecessors had each been politically purged from their offices. It was a lot of power to afford anyone.
Jayasankar grinned. “Good answer. But I know that there is more being left unsaid.”
Nagavanshi said nothing. Her expression was purely neutral. She was hiding something.
“You used the ELF, didn’t you? I know you contacted someone with it.”
No response from the Commissar-General. In her place the Admiral was confounded.
“ELF is only for emergencies.” Klasnikov said. “And it can only contact ships.”
“Absolutely.” Jayasankar turned her gaze from the Admiral and back to the Commissar-General, putting her hands on her hips, still smiling. “Nagavanshi communicated with a ship.”
Klasnikov blinked. “Which one of our ships is going into Imperial waters?”
“Before we tightened our shipbuilding program, we supplied militarized civilian ships to Campos Mountain that were equipped with our ELF.” Nagavanashi finally said. Klasnikov stared at her in confusion. “I acquired such a ship and transferred it to an important asset who operates in the Imbrium Ocean. Satisfied?”
Jayasankar crossed her arms, grinning. She’d gotten her; of course she did.
The Premier had already won this exchange before they even entered the room.
“You thought I wouldn’t find out?” She asked.
“I had ultimate oversight over Extremely Low Frequency comms.” Nagavanshi said.
“You’re not the only one with agents everywhere, Parvati.”
Fiddling around with her pocket, Jayasankar produced a vaporizer and nonchalantly took a sweet drag from it that smelled of strawberries. She had hoped to see Nagavanshi wither in the silence, but unfortunately, the Commissar-General was simply too strong, too well-kept together.
“Your predecessors were purged for this sort of behavior, you know?”
She pointed the vaporizer at the Commissar-General.
Nagavanshi did not stir. Though she was caught out, she was never cornered.
“I was acting for the greater good of this nation. I came prepared today to divulge a lot of information and make the case for my methods. Foreign intelligence is an absolute necessity for modern warfare. Without the assets I have put into place, we will become increasingly blind to events in the Empire. Already, we failed to ascertain the disarray of the border forces, and their intentions. I will not allow such lapses again– but I shall accept whatever decision our esteemed Premier makes, of course.”
Her voice was sweet as honey. She had really turned up the charm for that declaration.
Despite how much of a fucking bitch she was, Jayasankar admired Nagavanshi’s drive.
Being stricken from the communist party was not something that would bother her.
She was a purely material person who did not care one bit about appearances.
It was certain that if she were shut out of official power she would find power elsewhere.
At least she’s my little tyrant, Jayasankar told herself.
Those other Commissar-Generals served under other Premiers anyway.
“You can contact your agent via ELF. How did you get information back?”
Jayasankar stabbed her little vaporizer into the air for dramatic effect as her interrogation continued.
Nagavanshi continued to betray no emotion over being put on the spot in this way.
“That’s true,” Klasnikov realized. “You can’t open laser or acoustic contact with the Empire.”
“And she’s had nowhere near enough time for an agent to physically travel back here.”
Come on, Parvati, fess up, the Premier was certain that Nagavanshi had more to unveil.
Nagavanshi withdrew something from her pocket and connected it to a serial port in the table computer. After the table had read the contents of the diskette and found it to contain nothing dangerous, it gave the attendants access to the contents. The Commissar-General drew everyone’s attention to one specific item, which was displayed on the table as a floating holographic diagram of what looked like a coilgun shell, albeit a very strange one. No warhead; only a transmitter.
Once the diagram was available, Nagavanshi explained its significance.
“I’ve been putting serious research consideration into our operational capacity behind enemy lines. We’re too sentimental about ‘revolutionary warfare’, but guerilla war is a viable path for us if we consider communications and logistics. This transmitter shell allows us to fire a radio out to the surface, where we can use waves through the air transmit information. We’ve installed a buoy in the calm water over Lyser. While the surface corruption over most of the Imbrium will damage the transmitter, it will be active long enough to send a message to our buoy.”
She swiped from the diagram of the transmitter to a diagram of the buoy.
“Information from the buoy is transmitted back to us in the aphotic zone via cable. Due to animal activity, and the surface’s corruption, even in the calm waters at Lyser it is likely that the buoy will be severed or destroyed, but we can replace it if needed. At any rate: I contacted my agent via ELF to tell her to deploy a radio-flare with the most up to date information she had.”
“Did you come prepared to divulge this information?” the Premier asked her.
“It was going to be part of my overall proposal.”
Klasnikov had been staring at her with eyes wide open.
“So, to summarize. You gave a ship, and experimental technology, to somebody out in the Empire and they have confirmed to you, via these circumspect methods, that the Emperor is dead?”
“They’ve confirmed a lot more than that, but yes.” Nagavanshi said.
“Premier, this is rather outrageous, wouldn’t you say?” Klasnikov said.
Jayasankar ignored that remark. “How trustworthy is your source?”
“She is a hero to this country. She is prepared to give her life for me, and I for her.”
Both Jayasankar and Klasnikov were stunned.
That was highly uncharacteristic of how the Commissar-General ever spoke.
And as far as Jayasankar knew, it was the sort of thing Nagavanshi didn’t believe in.
There was no denying the expression on her face, however. Gone was the peerless calm.
It looked almost as if Nagavanshi herself could not believe what she had said.
She had the face of someone who knew they had committed a youthful indiscretion.
And done so amid her venerated, powerful elders.
Jayasankar sighed heavily. For her, the expert political operator who had come prepared and plotted everything meticulously, this was the first truly unpredictable event of the day. She almost wanted to ask if Nagavanshi and her agent had ever fucked. It was an open question now in her mind. And what kind of powers did it take to chisel through the rock to Nagavanshi’s heart?
Nagavanshi knew precisely that the only way forward was for her to bare some of her soul.
And for that, Jayasankar could only think she was an even more manipulative piece of shit than she had previously imagined. To have honesty and vulnerability become your trump cards–
“You’re horrible, Nagavanshi, but I am impressed. I think at this point, you should just tell us what you convened us for and lay out your plans. This gathering has become too messy.”
Nagavanshi let out a breath with visible relief.
Klasnikov shook his head solemnly. “Let us move forward with honesty.”
He sounded as if he himself could not hope for such a rosey outcome.
“I will be blunt then. I propose we launch an operation to infiltrate the Empire. Our goal will be to make contact with dissident forces and attempt to organize them into a broad revolutionary front as the Empire fragments.”
At Nagavanshi’s behest, the diagrams of the buoys and radio-flares disappeared.
In their place there was a diagram of a ship.
Then, in the next moment, that diagram became a camera feed of the actual ship.
It was, at that very second, docked in a VIP berth in Thassal.
“You probably find this ship’s exterior unimpressive. We used old hauler hulls to make it seem civilian. However, inside, it is a radical new design. This ship is intended to carry and support Divers in battle. It can hold up to 18 Divers. Its name is the Brigand, and I have classified it as an Assault Carrier. It will carry out a long-term mission to contact and organize Imperial dissidents.”
The Brigand was a two-tiered ship with a rectangular silhouette, almost diamond shaped due to the angles that made up the top deck and keel, with rounded flanks and fins, and bearing a thick, pointed prow. It was not impressive: it did look like a hauler, down to the rusty color. Its shape was not quite hydrodynamic and it looked heavy. The conning tower was thick and square with an additional triangular surface atop. There appeared to be no weapons along its surface.
“The Ashura put this together?” Jayasankar asked. It was not beyond the realm of possibility. They were a military force. It was still impressive that they kept it so close to the chest.
“We had help from the shipbuilder’s union at Central Yard.” Nagavanshi said.
That would explain it. The Yard was the strongest labor union in Solstice.
“And your intention,” Klasnikov interrupted, “is for this ship to sail into the Empire and make contact with dissident groups? What will it do when it reaches them? If by Eloah’s mercy it manages to reach any group, without being destroyed or captured by the Empire along the way?”
Nagavanshi scoffed. “Soon the Empire will be plunged into civil war. Its defenses will be porous. The Brigand is a state-of-the-art vessel, like I told you, don’t judge it by its appearances. It is fast, survivable, and has systems in place for stealth or escape. Not only that, in addition to its Diver capacity it also has a cargo hull that we will fill with more weapons and goods for our foreign comrades. It is my intention that we will supply weaponry to insurgent groups to foment terrorism in the Empire. However, our true objective is to advance one major resistance movement and prime the Empire for a revolution.”
Jayasankar crossed her arms. Nagavanshi’s true motives were unexpected.
It was true that the Union was in a difficult situation.
Militarily, their combat power was maybe 1/5th of the total Imperial power. Divided across its Grand Duchies, the Empire had thousands of ships, while the Union’s total Navy was just over 1000. The Republic slammed 800 ships into the Empire, barely made a dent and lost. Conventional warfare would eventually see the Union being overwhelmed and destroyed.
However, if indeed the Grand Duchies turned against the central government, and there was a power struggle between Prince Fueller and several other factions, that gave the Union a board with entirely different rules to play with.
The Empire was powerful if it could concentrate its forces.
Otherwise, individual fleets were on-par with the Union.
This had been borne out in Thassal already.
Jayasankar ran the options as she saw them in her own head.
One potential reaction would be to launch a Union invasion of the Southern Empire. Such an open attack, however, could potentially unite multiple Duchies into a mutual defense pact which would lead to the Union being overwhelmed or outflanked, and which would distract the Imperial nobles from Erich Fueller, who might gain the upper hand while this Noble Alliance is distracted.
They could attempt to contact and ally with Erich Fueller, to parlay support for time or legitimacy. However, Erich was in the best position of anyone, with the strongest and most loyal military forces and civilian subjects. He was pragmatic, inheriting none of his father’s eccentricity. He was born under the uncertainty of his father’s coup. He was always ready to fight for the throne.
Allying with any one Grand Duchy would be difficult ideologically. All of the Imperial boyars shared a great hatred of the Union, and the Union was held together in part by its fear and hatred of the Empire. For the Union to “upset the game,” it would need to build and deploy power entirely differently than the Empire. It could not count solely on traditional measures against them.
At least, not in the beginning. Opportunities could potentially arise, but–
By tapping into its own history of armed, worker-led revolution, Nagavanshi crafted a uniquely Union response.
While Jayasankar could definitely complain about the instruments carrying out the Commissar’s will, it was an ambitious plot. There was a lot of discontent among the lower and middle classes of the Empire, and due to its size the Empire had difficulty policing thoroughly its various territories. It had a vast underworld and many hostile borders. That the Union existed at all was a testament to the power of imperial dissident movements. The Union’s states were initially settled as penal colonies.
“Ultimately, your idea is to gather a dissident army in one place and spark a rebellion. So what movements can you contact, and in which territories?” Jayasankar asked Nagavanshi.
“We have a few in mind.” Nagavanshi said. “And as circumstances permit we want the Brigand to meet all of them. However, our major ally in the region will be the National Front of Buren.”
“Not Bosporus?” Jayasankar asked.
Bosporus was supposed to be special, Jayasankar thought.
Historians could easily say the Union was born in Bosporus.
Even after the revolution, the two states shared a connection that was greater than merely one of historical population movements. Goods, people, currency and secrets flowed out of the far north, crossing the poles and arriving in the southern oceans of the Union. In return, Union influence spread into the Empire through the underbelly of Bosporus. Dissidents from the Empire always sought asylum within the mordecist experiment of the Union. Bosporus would be the Premier’s choice, if she had to make a decision as to where to grow Imperial dissidence.
Nagavanshi shook her head. “It is true that Bosporus is the most ideologically developed of the Imperial states in its intellectual dissidence, and the secessionists there have a leftist character that I did take into account. But Bosporus is a hotbed for communalist ideology. It would create another place like Campos Mountain, and be an ineffective partner for us. The Bureni nationalists have vanguardist organization, militancy, a leader, and mordecist leanings.”
“I don’t like this.” Klasnikov said. “This is a suicide mission, Bhavani.”
“With our current naval power, can we win militarily against the Empire?”
Jayasankar asked Klasnikov this. The Admiral was reticent to answer.
“Not now, but we can build toward the future if we don’t send this prototype ship out to die in Imperial waters. I believe we should keep it here and augment our frontline power with it.”
Jayasankar smiled. She was sympathetic to that.
But more and more she realized it was not their reality.
“Hope springs eternal.” She said cryptically. Klasnikov furrowed his brows.
“The Brigand is useless in a defensive war! Its characteristics are purposely designed for guerilla warfare. It has less direct combat weapons than any cruiser its size, and its larger than many cruisers! It was designed purely for endurance. I refuse to assign it to meaningless fleet tasks.” Nagavanshi replied.
“Right now, Sorokin, if we keep waiting, I feel the situation will only worsen for us.”
Jayasankar stared the Admiral in the eye, calling him by his name.
“Bhavani, I know you trust this woman, but I don’t, and I can’t agree to this.”
Klasnikov stared back. Nagavanshi held her peace in the middle, between the two.
“She has already violated our trust several times.”
His eyes were almost pleading. Jayasankar was not moved.
She did not get to her own position by being fully honest with everybody.
Even in the Union, a state that was a mother to its people, politics was still played.
“Sorokin, Parvati is correct here. At the moment, if we wait and engage in conventional tactics we will lose everything. But we can take a gamble; and though we may sacrifice a few souls in so doing, we stand to fundamentally alter the world.” Jayasankar said. “You know why it has to be the Duchy of Buren. If Buren has a revolution, it will cripple Imperial Agarthicite production.”
“I understand that perfectly. However this counterveils every hard-fought lesson we know about war. How will the Brigand be supplied? How will it remain in contact? How would we even know that it is alive or dead in the waters at any given moment? After we launch it, we’ve lost control of the situation, and furthermore, have no way to aid it inside of Imperial territory.”
Nagavanshi brought up a map on the table computer.
It was a map of the broader Empire, with the Nectaris and Imbrium both represented. There were several spots on the map, tracing a potential route. She pointed at three different spots where the route brought the Brigand back to Nectaris. At other times, it was deep in the Imperial core.
“We can have it take a circuitous route that brings it close to our borders at a few points. That will allow us to check back in with it. We can also employ the E.LF. and my special methods to communicate with it. As for the rest, they will rely on their wits. I’m putting together a crew of people with many different skills. And in addition, if we clue in the Republic, they will use their own networks to help us also.”
“Just a few minutes ago you were attacking the Republic as a weak ally.” Klasnikov said.
“Weak, but useful and willing. If there’s anything good about them it’s their intelligence.”
“Will we see a crew roster?” Jayasankar said.
“I’ll share one when it is ready.” Nagavanshi replied.
“You really are a terrible girl. You think you can do anything you want.”
Jayasankar scolded her, but it was almost more motherly than authoritarian.
“It’s time to move quickly.” Nagavanshi said. “Do you accept my proposal?”
On the table, dozens of windows appeared with additional information.
All of it was at first shaded, but with a quick swipe of her hand, Nagavanshi dramatically decrypted every document. Names and faces, vast sheets of logistics math, numerous tables. The work of years of secretive planning, thousands of communications, all of it laid bare. Again the Admiral and the Premier were left speechless at the apparatus that Nagavanshi had constructed. Her Ashura, the serpents tasked with keeping order, had built a ship, and plotted a revolution.
“I’ve laid out everything I’ve planned, and everything that is available to me. There are no more secrets, only work that lies ahead of us. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done to make sure nothing compromises our purpose. Without taking revolutionary action, our revolution will be destroyed.”
Jayasankar crossed her arms, smiling. She took a long drag of her vaporizer.
“Well, we can’t very well just dump all this effort in the sea, can we?” She finally said.