Over the Great Lyser Reach, a red frigate crossed the vast plains. Lyser was dotted with Agri-Spheres that had been set up to provide for the Southern Empire’s food — and now the Union’s. Only 300 meters below the surface, Lyser was brighter than any other place in the Union. Overhead, the light was visible like a halo, and it shone below, in the greenhouse spheres.
Lyser was temperamental, like any other place near the surface. Great currents flowed through it, and if one turned their scopes to the surface they would see the massively turbulent ceiling of the water. Schools of fish swam past with great urgency. Every so often, a massive Leviathan might rear its head over the plains. Mines had been laid at the border of 100 meters from the surface, inhabited by such volatile creatures. The mines triggered based on acoustic signature.
Navigating confidently at 200 meters from the surface, the Frigate Basavraj ferried a group of VIPs from Solstice to the sudden battlefront that formed in Ferris. Chief among the VIPs was a woman with a deceivingly youthful, deceivingly pleasant smile, who had claimed the Captain’s quarters as an office from which to conduct all the work she took from Solstice. It still needed to be done, after all, even in a war. Looking into decency complaints, approving media depictions of various touchy subjects, and reviewing dispute records from community safety teams.
On her right, a screen set up on the wall pretended to be a window, hooked up to a camera.
Lyser was beautiful, and she could see it. Beautiful and fragile, like the Union.
As she contemplated this duality, an officer arrived, tall, stoic-faced and disciplined.
An armband, with a serpent on it, indicated he was one of the internal security troops.
Her own troops: Commissar-General Parvati Nagavanshi’s troops.
“Commissar-General, Lyser routed a laser from Solstice through to us. It pleases me to inform that the preparations on the Brigand project are completed. Given the war footing, should the Brigand be deployed to the frontlines at Ferris? It could multiply our power there.”
Commissar-General Nagavanshi did not lift her head from the papers she was reading.
“Send it to Thassal Station.”
“Let the Navy HQ know, however, that the Brigand will be staffed, and its mission profile will be determined, by the People’s Security Directorate. It will not be under Navy command.”
“Ma’am? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of deploying it?”
“I’ll discuss that at the upcoming Strategic Council; not with you. Go on.”
She waved for the subordinate officer to leave. He left, saluting, without another word.
Nagavanshi pulled a file from one of the many rock paper documents on the desk.
She thumbed over the picture of the woman there. “Murati Nakara, hmm?”
Interrupting her train of thought, the officer she had just dismissed ran back in, with a second officer in town. This woman did not have the Naga armband of Nagavanshi’s personnel and in her bosom she clutched tightly a lot of long, floppy paper. It looked to Nagavanshi like the printouts generated by the acoustic text message printers. Why would she have so many?
“Ma’am, I’m deeply sorry to interrupt. We’ve received news from Ferris.”
“What kind of news?”
Commissar-General Nagavanshi lifted her gaze from the documents on the table to the two officers. Her man, the one with the serpent, withered under the sharpness of her stare, while the girl with the communiques seemed unaware of how grossly annoyed the Commissar had become.
“Ma’am, there was a survivor from the Imperial flagship, from the Strasser.”
“That ship went up in an agarthic annihilation. Didn’t it?”
Nagavanshi was skeptical, but clearly interested. Her expression softened.
“Yes ma’am.” Her officer took the communiques from the communications girl. “Before the ship went into battle, allegedly, the Admiral had this person booted off in an escape pod. She was found amid the debris of the fleet. Ma’am, she claims to be Abigail of the Gottwald family.”
“Some mediocre daughter of some backwater nobility?”
“Allegedly, the Admiral’s niece. There’s more to it than that though, ma’am.”
Now the officer looked through the papers again as if to try to get the story straight.
“Oh, give me that.”
Nagavanshi stood up, stomped her way around the desk and seized the papers.
Her eyes drew wide as she scanned the contents.
“Ma’am, this has to remain top secret, that’s what they say–”
“Obviously, you idiot!”
In her hands, she held the reason why the Empire was not going to attack them in force.
It answered why the Southern Border Fleet had rammed itself into the Union.
Across the border, while the heir apparent Prince Erich von Fueller was holding off a Republic fleet in the umpteenth battle of the Great Ayre Reach, it just so happened that behind his back, Emperor Konstantin von Fueller had fallen gravely ill, and quite suddenly, he had died.
Nagavanshi smiled a bloodthirsty grin, her hands shaking, clutching the papers.
Now this would change everything.