Arc 2 Intermissions [II.2]

“The Battle of the Chart”

Like any major event in the Union, the opening of hostilities with the Empire would become a political tug-of-war in the shadows between the falling Ahwalian and ascending Jayasankarist factions of the Union government. While many of the events that transpired during this time received a healthy massage when committed to history, the following is a rough chronicle of the “Battle of the Chart,” a minor political victory for Premier Bhavani Jayasankar and her supporter Commissar-General Parvati Nagavanshi.

A minor victory that would set the stage for the major political victory to come thereafter.

And a few small stories of little people who participated in it, some knowingly, some not.

“Meal B, please.”

That day the cafeteria’s B menu seemed to be a simple wrap, with a pureed eggplant salad dip and chips.

An irrelevant detail– the B menu had to be eaten. This was her duty.

No matter what was on the menu, Maya Kolokotronis always chose “B.” It was part of a ritual, and rituals had some importance to her. For someone raised in chaos she valued consistency and personal habits. There were some that called it a “Katarran superstition” but in reality it was a habit born out of nothing but Maya’s own convictions. Having an A menu or a B menu was simply a privilege that Union people took for granted. Katarran slaves got protein and vitamin slop and sometimes even in a bowl.

Maya knew about that all too well.

So when she learned that the “B” menu was generally less selected than the “A” menu–

It incensed her a little bit. She decided to do her part and exclusively eat the “B” menu.

Sometimes, Union people didn’t know how good they had it, she thought.

They were good people. Despite how much she stuck out in the Union, everyone was always unfailingly polite to her nonetheless. Nobody aside from children made comments about her horns, which were jet black and segmented, peering out from under her long dark brownish-green hair. Her skin, which was a yellowish-white color, with a few red striations and mottles, did not elicit much of a response as well.

Perhaps it was the uniform. As a Rear Admiral, she wore a very visible green greatcoat which she draped over her shoulders, along with a big cap, with a button-down shirt and black and green pants. She had a bodysuit beneath everything. For a Katarran, she was also a fairly sleek lady– rather than a shark or a whale or some other big impressive creature, her DNA was drawn from a humble deep water lobster. Most Union Katarrans were mercenary crew who were captured by the Empire and deported to the colonies. Such fighters were usually fiercer animals than a lobster, and bred to be a bit bigger– but that was actually only a stereotype the Imbrians formed. There were plenty of smaller mercenaries too.

Regardless, even as a former Katarran mercenary, everyone was kind to her.

Union people were good people– but they were naive.

She took a seat in the middle of a cafeteria on the upper level of Salsk Station, a habitat in Ferris just north of Thassal. She opened the reusable lunchbox and took a bite of her wrap. It was filled with warm cabbage, shredded boiled egg and sweet, soy-based sauce. There was a sweetness to the wrap itself, perhaps corn was used. One could not fault the corn chips and savory eggplant salad dip either.

It was a nice, efficient breakfast.

And yet, the foolish Union public, per capita, chose “A” menu because it was offered first.

“Excuse me.”

Maya looked up from her plate.

There was a young woman in front of her, round-faced, plump, radiating pleasantness. She was dressed in the red cafeteria overalls and black long-sleeved shirt, the little cafeteria worker cap placed atop her curly brown hair. She smiled when Maya looked up at her. Maya did her best to smile back, a bit crooked and unveiling sharp fangs. Even this sight did not turn away the unfailingly polite and pleasant girl.

“Thank you so much for coming to our cafeteria!” She said. Her voice trembled a bit. “We rarely have repeat visitors, so it’s nice to see you again! I hope this isn’t weird, but I’m proud of the food we serve and I want to make sure you’re enjoying it! We’re a bit out of the way of the main station thoroughfare, but we really try our best! I– I really hope we’ll see you again!” She practically bowed her head to Maya.

Rear Admiral Maya Kolokotronis developed a second conviction on that day.

She would visit this supposedly “out of the way” cafeteria exclusively.

Stupid, naive Union people– why the hell would they not visit cafeterias equally?!

Why would some be built and staffed and then have less visitors?! All areas of a station are worth serving!

Maya would have to eat at this cafeteria for all the fools who did not.

She stood up, and bowed her own head back at the cafeteria girl, who looked momentarily startled.

“No, ma’am. Thank you for your service.” She said. And she meant it.

For the next few years, and even in the lead-up to the battle of Thassal in 979, Maya would eat exclusively at this cafeteria. Nobody understood it, but for the quiet, brooding admiral, this was part of her justice. It was part of why, despite her background as a mercenary, she became a picture of Union egalitarianism.

“To me she sounds like a bit of a crackpot.”

“She’s a politically viable crackpot.”

In the Premier’s Office in Mount Raja, Bhavani Jayasankar and Parvati Nagavanshi met to go over an important personnel decision. Atop the Premier’s desk were several digital sheets each containing the dossier of one of their Admirals, Rear Admirals and Commanders. If they were going to launch an attack on Sverland they needed to revise the organization of the Thassal Fleet. So far, Deshnov and Goswani had performed a lot of ad hoc actions against various crises, and there was no faulting their performance–


Such things could not be allowed to continue. Due to new intelligence from Veka, the Union had an opportunity to expand its reach into the Empire’s southern duchy of Sverland, specifically its Serrano and Cascabel regions. The forthcoming strategic operation could not become defined by a few individual’s personal heroism in responding to emergency. It had to be seen as a calculated exertion of socialist power as directed by Solstice, Naval HQ, and more importantly, the ruling Jayasankarist faction of the government. It would no longer be crisis management — it would be organized military action.

Going over the situation in detail one more time–

“Right now, in Deshnov, the Ahwalia faction has a military hero racking up accolades at the front for the first time in decades. Deshnov and Goswani took it upon themselves to respond to the last few situations in Thassal. With that in mind, it’d be politically dangerous to allow Deshnov to lead the expedition into Sverland, and potentially achieve our first liberation of an Imperial territory since the revolution.” Nagavanshi said. “Coupled with his other victories it could give him a platform to speak on his ideology or even to enter politics formally. We have to find a way to break his influence over the Thassal fleet.”

Bhavani smiled. “Deshnov is too unsophisticated to enter politics of his own volition. By himself, he’s just a careless old fool, but I agree with your assessment in general. If we keep feeding him easy victories, the Ahwalians will definitely grab him and groom him into a political weapon. He’s one of the original revolutionaries and has an unassailable combat record that commands respect. They wouldn’t use him to challenge me directly, but they might try to influence Naval HQ in favor of the Ahwalian faction.”

“We need to replace him at the front. Give another Admiral a shot and spin it as an All-Union success.”

“I agree wholeheartedly. You must have something in mind, right? You’ve been watching him.”

Nagavanshi nodded. She crossed her arms.

“I propose we make the case that Deshnov needs to cycle back to a supporting role for his own health. That he’s been pushing himself to a breaking point and needs to be prescribed a desk tour right away. Even if it’s only temporary, as long as he’s out of our hair for a few weeks we can make him irrelevant. I can manufacture an incident of some kind to give us an opening. The only question is who replaces him.”

“We could have used Murati Nakara if she was here, but you had to send her away.” Bhavani said.

Her voice had a teasing tone. She was not speaking fully seriously.

Nagavanshi grumbled. “She is more useful where she is and it would look too bizarre to jump a Lieutenant to Admiral anyway– it’d be an obvious political move. In addition, while Murati Nakara has been vocally partisan in our favor, she and Deshnov were close, so she could get sentimental.”

“Then like I said, I believe in this one. Whether or not we can get Deshnov out, she’s still my choice.”

Bhavani tapped her index finger repeatedly on the dossier of Maya Kolokotronis.

An unassuming Katarran, young-looking but old in years, smallish among her kind in the Union.

“It’s a little known fact, but Kolokotronis achieved the greatest destruction of Imperial ships in a single action in the revolution. Her flotilla sank 31 Imperial vessels by baiting them to the photic zone in the Great Lyser Reach, and when they began to ascend past the upper scattering layer, she attacked from underneath them with a detached force. Before it could reorganize, the enemy fleet was devastated. She performed this feat at the head of a mercenary crew, so in the early days of the Union state, that history was downplayed.” Bhavani said. “But I believe the time has come to honor her martial prowess.”

“Her political leanings align with ours.” Nagavanshi said, rubbing her chin as she went over the dossier that Bhavani had pointed out. “She is a pragmatic militarist, and she was one of the admirals who supported Ahwalia’s house arrest. She can easily be read as our Jayasankarist hero, and we can play her up as a genius liberator– if she proves to be a genius. We are gambling that she can carry out the operation in a way that she’ll overshadow the importance of our intelligence position. She has to be credible within the Navy too. Otherwise people will say Deshnov could’ve done the same as her.”

“I believe in her.” Bhavani said. “I think that she has a killer instinct which has been dormant.”

“If you insist, I’ll follow you.” Nagavanshi replied. “Now we have to focus on the next little skirmish.”

Bhavani grinned. “Yep. We’ll have a fistfight on our hands getting the chart just the way we like.”

“I’ll get people on it. We’ll see how known Ahwalians respond, and deal with each blow as it comes.”

Nagavanshi turned leave, but Bhavani reached out over the desk and grabbed her shoulder.

“I love it when you say you’ll ‘get people on it’. But there’s one person I want to get in my room, tonight.”

She winked, and though the gesture was not seen, it must have been felt.

Without turning around, Nagavanshi responded, “I’ll make appropriate arrangements, Premier.”

“Ah, there he is.”

It was important to the success of the operation that Yervik Deshnov be approached outside of the Formidable, his flagship, where his crew could have attempted to resist the agent serving him a notice. Such a thing would be illegal of course– but young people in the military could be foolhardy. This figured not only in the decision by Nagavanshi’s “Ashura” to approach him when he stepped out of a cafeteria in Thassal station, but also in the decision to send a lone operative who could handle herself without drawing too much attention. So after he finished his coffee and biscuits one morning, in a quiet little cafeteria away from port, Deshnov found himself faced with the friendly smile of a certain Hanko Korhonen-Adamos Rainyday, who towered nearly two heads taller than the squat old man.

“Fair currents, Admiral!” She said. “I require a moment of your time. Official business.”

Deshnov stared at her with immediate skepticism. He looked like he wanted to spit on her shoes.

“I don’t have time for you chekist thugs. Tell Nagavanshi to meet me herself if she wants something.”

Hanko continued to smile. In her heart, she felt she had a very maidenly soul. She was a tall woman, somewhere over two meters, and she would have described herself as being “pretty fit” but “retaining a womanly charm.” Her grey skin was one of the markers of her heritage, the other being her odd mix of ears. One of her ears was a fluffy, perfectly straight dog-like ear, mottled slightly brown. Her other ear looked more like a hairless, cartilaginous fin from a whale shark– one the donors for her DNA.

“That totally unreasonable demand aside, I’m afraid it concerns your health, so I’ll need you to stay put.”

When Deshnov tried to walk past her, he met with the firm, inescapable grip of a Katarran Pelagis.

And the courtesy and gallantry of a dog-like Loup. Hanko stood there with a polite smile.

Even then, he obstinately tried to shove past her.

Inside, she felt this was such a pathetic sight, that was truly making this old man look bad.

As for herself, she was fine to stand there all day if she had to. He couldn’t move her a centimeter.

“Fine, Katarran. Talk to me about my health then.” Deshnov said sarcastically, finally giving up.

“Awesome.” Hanko said. “But–“

Hanko squeezed his shoulder a bit, causing him to flinch slightly and start resisting again.

She couldn’t help it, because the ‘Katarran’ bit had made her astronomically angrier than before.

“I’m a member of the Union the same as you, comrade. My name is Hanko Korhonen-Adamos Rainyday.” Her face darkened a bit, her grin taking on some malice. “Please acknowledge that I am serving you this notice, I, being Hanko Korhonen-Adamos Rainyday. I require you to say my entire name if you please.”

“God damn it– You can’t do this to me–“

Deshnov, in an unfortunate fit, attempted to strike Hanko in the chest–

And found his fist squeezed until a few gentle cracks could be heard, in Hanko’s other hand.

“Oh dear, I can hardly believe this degree of foolishness. No one is above the law, comrade, and you have insulted me and attacked me for just trying to perform my duty and serve you a notice that you must appear for a wellness check-in at Mount Raja in Solstice. I’m afraid things have gotten more serious than that now.” Hanko said this with a noticeable glee while Deshnov struggled pathetically in her grasp.

Most details of this sad scene would be go on to be suppressed, “for the Admiral’s dignity.”

In truth, Nagavanshi had always known that it would go this way and planned for it to begin with.

Deshnov hated the Ashura and believe any sign of their presence near him was a specific sanction on Nagavanshi’s part. He was correct this time, but Nagavanshi had picked her moment. Out of magnanimity their approaches to him had been very limited for the past few years of Bhavani’s regime, and this special treatment had come to be well known internally, and resented by other bureaucrats. That magnanimity had run out– and so on that day, he met a woman with a known short fuse for all of Deshnov’s conceited personal habits toward internal security personnel. And it was this woman, then, who formally arrested him, with a smile on her face and the wind behind her sails, in a sparsely frequented cafeteria in Thassal.

Deshnov had never been very politically savvy.

He had always gone with his gut, and he was known for a few things that Nagavanshi exploited.

First, he was known to be a bit “old timey” misogynist, which was evident every time he told his crews to get married or have sex as heterosexual good luck charms before a battle or exercise. So when it became a spreading BBS rumor that he had insulted a female officer of the Ashura and been taken in for it, this was seen as somewhat predictable. Second, he was known to be a very sad lonely man with a few vices. So when he was officially listed as being drunk on the day in which he insulted an Ashura officer, that was also understood to be true and not a convenient smear. In fact, there were several people privately rejoicing that the “gerontocracy of the navy” were finally being “reigned in” when they heard of his arrest.

And his arrest was not heavily publicized. It was not treated with anywhere near the same bombast as the arrests of Ahwalia and his close supporters had been years ago. It barely merited a mention in Thassal’s local news let alone nationally, and all Union press was instructed to, for Deshnov’s sake, prevent it from becoming anything big. This lent the situation an air of normality. An unfortunate event had transpired and a man known to be somewhat erratic despite his heroic service had earned himself official reprimand.

However, the crimes were relatively minor, and there was continuity of command.

So this carefully cultivated theater and lack of theater transpired as its engineers desired.

Deshnov’s second in command, Chaya Goswani, responded to all of this by sighing deeply and developing an enormous headache. She was appointed, for a brief period, as head of the Thassal fleet. And she was kept in line, and kept from suspicion, by the next event in Nagavanshi’s chain: all criminal charges against Deshnov were dropped soon after, and it was clarified he was being sent to Solstice for a wellness check-up, and a possible community service duty as a form of reeducation through labor.

“God in heaven.” Goswani sighed. “It figures that old bastard would get assigned to reeducation.”

So far, so good.

There was barely any response from a Union public that was trying their best not to think about the times they were living in, and who were, already, being heavily messaged away from responding anyway.

Travel from Ferris to Solstice could be done in a few days, but could take up to a week depending on the route, the currents, stops along the way, the status of the fuel rods for the ship in question, acts of God, and sailor’s union approved mental health breaks for the crews aboard the ships. Needless to say, the next ship bound for Solstice was going on a slow, leisurely trip with its famous new passenger.

On the very day Deshnov was escorted to his ship to Solstice, sedate in mood–

Rear Admiral Maya Kolokotronis was appointed Admiral in command of the Thassal fleet.

And a day after, the operation to Sverland was announced in semi-secrecy.

By the time Deshnov arrived in Solstice, the guns would already be sounding.

One morning, Maya Kolokotronis sat down in her favorite cafeteria with the fullness of understanding of where she was headed and what she was being asked to do. She asked, as always, for the menu “B.”

“Good morning, miss Kolokotronis.”

“Good morning miss Federova.”

Bringing her the food box was the bright, round-faced girl whom Maya had been seeing every day now for years, Marinka Federova. She sat down with Maya briefly, and the two of them ate, both from Menu “B” that Maya unflinchingly chose to eat every single day. That morning, Menu “B” was a treasure box. Savory buckwheat porridge with mushrooms rehydrated in lemon juice, spiced with paprika, and topped with a dollop of corn oil confit pickled tomato with biscuit on the side and two hard boiled pickled eggs.

“And people forego Menu ‘B’! I could give them a thrashing!” Maya said.

“Now, now, Maya, it happens nowhere near as often as before!” Marinka replied, giggling.

“Well, good.” Maya said. “I suppose you have access to the stats since you work here. I’ll believe you.”

“I know it’s important to you, so I’ve actually been keeping track. I like to think you made a difference.”

“Hmph. If I can convince one more person to pick up the ‘B’ menu, I’ll die happy.”

“I think, honestly, that the Menu A and Menu B system is kind of silly, and the root of the issue.”

“No, it’s important.” Maya said. “If people got to have their way, they would always have favorite dishes and dishes they don’t like, they would start asking for things, they would put stress on the cafeteria people. This is the best way. The Cafeteria can run efficiently making dishes with a good selection of items every day, everything is standardized, controlled, accounted, and people get food that is good for them. We don’t have the luxury of every cafeteria becoming a restaurant where everyone gets their bespoke meal. You get a feel-good little choice, A or B, and if you have allergies, then C and D. It’s efficient.”

“I see. You’re right. I like how passionate you are about it, for a military person.” Marinka said.

“Here, I’m not a military person. I’m just a woman who is grateful for your care.”

Maya looked up from her food. She breathe in and let out a deep sigh for a moment.

“Something wrong?” Marinka asked.

“No. Everything is fine. I’m just– I’m going to do one unusual thing today.”

“I see, and what is that?”

She knew that Maya liked routine, so she looked a little sympathetic or worried.

Then Maya reached out and took Marinka’s hands into her own.

Marinka’s face turned bright pink.

“Marinka Fedorova, please take the first step with me. I know I’m a good-for-nothing who eats your food and disappears to fantasize about fleet combat, but I will do anything to make you happy. I am going away soon but when I come back, I want you to move in with me. I even live near the cafeteria!” She said.

In response, Marinka suddenly started sobbing.

“Oh god, that bad?” Maya said, her voice trembling.

And in response to that, Marinka pulled Maya in for a kiss across the cafeteria table.

While the response from the Union press and from Jayasankarist organs of the government was resolutely mum, Deshnov’s arrest and removal from Thassal did cause a few firebrands within the Union to launch salvos against Nagavanshi. While the notion of defending someone being characterized as “an old sad drunk suffering fatigue” was subject to a certain indignity, the Ahwalians did not get to pick their battlefields when it came to suspected reprisals. They believed they had to stick together or fall apart.

Ahwalia himself, in house arrest in Hanza Station in southern Solstice, could not possibly comment.

He was so disgraced that such a thing would have been ridiculous.

However, from his seclusion, he did request for the Parliamentarian of the Supreme Soviet, Yerdlov Smolenskiy, to begin an inquiry into the events. In the Union, national government policy began at the executive level: but it was supposed to be formalized in the Supreme Soviet and its Regional Soviets or Councils. Station and regional councils were tasked with gathering public opinion data on proposals for new law, new executive guidance, amendments to existing law, and so on for the national level. Ballot initiatives could be pursued by station populations to officially lobby the national government, and citizens could also join to collectively bargain with the government or rarely even organize protests.

It was the task of the Councils to shepherd such initiatives from initial requests from the public to official debate in the government, and either conscientious and detailed rejection or commitment to policy. The Councils also weighed in on executive policy and promoted their constituency’s best interests. Each Council had a Parliamentarian who functionally led each region’s body, though different factions of the Communist Party also had whips in each Council to align their interests. (There were, of course, no official political parties allowed except for the All-Union Communist Party). In addition, Councils and specific councilmen and councilwomen could become and frequently did become pawns in executive politics.

Yerdlov was one such pawn and he knew it.

He was a pawn even in the National Council: the Supreme Soviet of the communist party.

His position was precarious because he had been vocal in his support of Elias Ahwalia seven years ago.

Back then he believed strongly the government could shrug off Bhavani Jayasankar’s actions.

In his view, the public would see her acting unilaterally and condemn and reject her.

Back then it was not even about Ahwalia versus Jayasankar. To him, it had been about process.

No matter how many military ships Jayasankar parked above Hanza and Mount Raja, no matter how many flagrant accusations she threw to cover up her illegitimate and violent coup, the Council could convene, reaffirm the norms of Union democracy and send the militarists tumbling out of history.

However, he put his faith entirely in process, which was something Council people often did.

Bhavani Jayasankar, who had neither faith nor belief in Process as an entity separate from ideology, simply acted outside process, gathered forces outside process and won the Premiership, largely outside process and with only a small theatrical formality within a process that was held hostage. People did not rise up, they did not petition the Councils to stop this, there was no official animus to prevent the coup. Process would end up reeling for years, but Bhavani still didn’t rule entirely by fiat. So when Ahwalia tapped him, Yerdlov strongly believed, once again, that he could rely on process. Deshnov’s continued success in Thassal was one of the hopes of the Ahwalian faction, their beachhead inside of the Navy.

They had even thought they could someday maneuver to replace Klasnikov with Deshnov. Then Bhavani Jayasankar would not be able to do whatever she wanted with their armed forces when it pleased her.

So Yerdlov dutifully submitted to the Supreme Council: this business with Deshnov had to be investigated.

Preferably, Deshnov would be retained in Thassal until a full investigation could be concluded.

Yerdlov expected to have a full inquiry team lined up and to return Deshnov to Thassal that very day.

His demands began a process that Yerdlov had not really expected: a process of formal debate.

Several councilors voiced the need to investigate entirely different matters:

Could the Supreme Soviet actually investigate a formal arrest and a military safety procedure?

By what legal instrument would they actually do this?

How would the process of deploying this legal instrument look like?

Did it take a vote? Was it an All-Union vote or a regional vote in Thassal?

When had the Council set a precedent that it could intervene like this anyway?

(Unfortunately for Yerdlov, that had been himself, inquiring into Ahwalia’s arrest.)

(There was not much cheer in the Council when this was brought up.)

Since the Supreme Soviet was not in a state of emergency, it could only work the same pay periods as an accountant or other office worker who dealt with sheets and numbers. Therefore, they could only work eight hours a day on this. The proposal was put forward near the end of the day, and several Councilors were adamant that debate would not run into overtime. This matter in itself became a subject of debate which consumed the rest of the session anyway. So they would reconvene tomorrow.

They agreed to reconvene to begin a formal process of inquiry–

–into whether the council’s process of inquiry could overturn an arrest–

–that was made outside the jurisdiction (should the Ferris Council be involved?)–


Yerdlov and his bloc understood this immediately to be complete obstructionism.

However, acting to “overturn the obstructionism” would not result in “overturning Deshnov’s arrest.”

That result was starting to become close to impossible to achieve.

It became clear to Yerdlov at that point that he would have to fight for the process, not to win a victory now, but to insure that there was not total defeat in the future. As such, Elias Ahwalia’s request to him would go completely unanswered as he became involved in plotting and preparing for a legalistic battle to protect the right of the Council to investigate theoretical arrests made by the Ashura in the jurisdictions of other Councils. If the scope of the issue broadened any further, he would be ready for it.

For the Jayasankarist bloc, this deliberation was precisely the optimal outcome.

But they would take it deadly seriously — process was important to them as well, of course.

Naval HQ formally announced Maya Kolokotronis’ promotion to Admiral and her command of the Thassal fleet, as part of the preparations for the Union’s first ever Strategic Offensive Operation, dubbed “Operation Tenable.” The Operation itself, and its nature, would remain secret except to the Thassal fleet officers until execution. Sailors were informed that there would be maneuvers but not what sort, and to be alert for potential combat but not when– the officers on the bridge of each ship were the ones who controlled the course of the ship and use of weapons, so only they had to know the exact nature of what they were doing. Since the sailors at Thassal were on high alert anyway, they accepted this state of things.

There was a final roadblock to Bhavani’s ambition to exercise complete control over the forces at Thassal before the Sverland campaign. Since the formal founding of the Union, Fleet officers were part of a labor union that represented them in collective bargaining and other such matters. The Officer’s Union could have lodged a formal complaint about Deshnov’s replacement and potentially agitated against seating Maya Kolokotronis at the head of the Thassal fleet. To head this off, Bhavani Jayasankar met with the current officer’s union chief, Rear Admiral Charvi Chadgura, prior to the appointment of Kolokotronis.

Not to discuss Deshnov whatsoever– that was not something worth discussing in Bhavani’s eyes.

Rather, the Premier met alone with the young, quiet Rear Admiral in her office for another matter.

“I want you to know, if the labor union pushes for a slate of promotions across the fleet organization, I have your back.” Bhavani said. “With escalation almost certain, we are going to focus on recruiting and shipbuilding. We’ll have everything in place to staff up soon, and I agree with the union’s assessment that the organization is top-light on officers, particularly in bridges. I can guarantee you new capital ships, and I’m talking hard quotas you can reference on paper. Fleet staffing across the board. Guaranteed.”

Charvi Chadgura blinked at the Premier in muted surprise.

Her labor union had not been asking for sweeping promotions or ship quotas or any of that.

Or, well– they had asked a year ago, before the current security situation–

She hadn’t thought it was viable to push for that now–

Her eyes practically lit up gold with the realization of what she could secure for her members.

As chief of the officer’s union’s board, Chadgura could not possibly pass up a slate of promotions if the Premier was offering her support. That was a common complaint across all levels of seniority, that a lot of young petty officers had been made with only few making ensign, let alone anything else; Captains complained of understaffed bridges with no flexibility for shift rotations; and command officers had languished as “office commanders” without fleet openings for years and years. This phenomenon was dubbed “the Chair Force” and it vexed officers across the entire rank structure. It would make Chadgura’s union members very pleased to receive promotions, fleet openings, guaranteed ship quotas with guaranteed new staffing– and it would head off any possible discontent if the war became hotter.

“Thank you Premier. I actually began work on a new proposal in that regard– I’ll have it ready soon.”

“Of course, of course. Take your time, and make it the best it can be for your members. You all deserve it. How’s the wife? Gulab Kajari, I believe was her name? I know I was happy when you two tied the knot–“

Bhavani affably transitioned to small talk, while Chadgura became fully preoccupied in her own mind with drafting her nonexistent package for sweeping promotions across the fleet. Thinking to herself that she would go down in the history of the Officer’s Union board if she played her cards right, and thinking nothing of a certain old union member who might have wanted her to raise a stink on his behalf.

After this meeting, Bhavani needed only to watch as everything fell into place. Maya Kolokotronis was promoted and seated, Deshnov was out of the picture without bloodshed or much controversy, the Council was busy bickering, and the officer’s union found a more ambitious use of their time than resisting Nagavanshi’s sanction. The Jayasankarists now dictated the course of the battle for Sverland.

A few days after Deshnov’s arrest, a formal meeting of Thassal’s fleet command convened on Hammer-1, the Agrisphere grow-module that had been moved from Lyser to be able to dock more ships near Thassal Station. In the same room where, weeks ago, the Premier and her counterparts had convened to discuss the potential fate of the nation and the state of the Empire, now met six Rear Admirals, one of which was Chaya Goswani, and the newly appointed Admiral of the fleet, the much talked about Maya Kolokotronis.

For a Katarran, she was fairly– small? She was average height, but Goswani always expected a goliath when she heard about Pelagis. She wore her uniform in an odd way, with the greatcoat over her shoulders without her arms in the sleeves. One thing Goswani noted was a silver band on her left ring finger.

Besides that the skin color, the claw-like horns, what looked like a tiny lobster tail flapping at her rear–

Just “ordinary” Pelagis things. Goswani was much more interested in her battle strategy.

They had been tasked, after all, with occupying the Serrano and Cascabel regions of Sverland.

“Greetings, comrades. My name is Admiral Maya Kolokotronis of the flagship Typhon.”

The Admiral stood at the head of the table. She inserted something into the table computer.

Expected positions of the Volkisch Fleets appeared on a map in the table.

“You probably don’t know me, so I will go over my record and beliefs briefly. I was born in Katarre, a place so miserable, you should all be grateful to be here now, no matter what hardship brought you. I fought in the Union’s revolution as a mercenary still, following the Katarran way. Absolute self-sacrifice for martial victory. Throw everything at the enemy and achieve its total devastation. Gamble at the highest risk if it would bring the greatest payoff. Don’t settle for a rout when you can achieve a total massacre. Katarran mercenaries once fought to secure their legacies and command high prices for guaranteed slaughter.”

Kolokotronis waved her hand over table, and Union fleets appeared on the map.

“I am not a Katarran mercenary anymore. I am a Union socialist. I only eat at the cafeteria — I have a favorite cafeteria in fact, and I missed it today when I had breakfast. I believe that the Union is full of good people. But they are naive, and they need to be protected. They are imperfect and cannot all defend or even understand their way of life. They need time to mature, to grow, to see the world for what it is and to truly understand their blessings and how to preserve them for perpetuity. That is why, in this upcoming operation, I will settle for nothing less than the utter annihilation of the enemy. I will see it as a personal failure if among the enemy there are not at least 30,000 KIA. My goal is to utterly destroy their ability to make war on our fragile people, who don’t know the evil of the world the same way that I do.”

With another wave of her hand, Maya Kolokotronis solemnly set the fleets on the map in motion.

Goswani watched the data and simulations on the table with breathless, quiet shock.

As one by one, the Union fleet engulfed and utterly destroyed over 120 ships of the Volkisch Movement.

“We will cut through their defenses, we will appear in their midst, we will block their escape from behind. We will destroy their supply lines and crush their reinforcements. There will be nothing to offer rescue to. Their distant commanders will count their shattered fleets and ask themselves if this is really the Union they fought, and not the figures of military legend once told among the Katarran mercenaries. They will see their forces vanish in a red mist of overwhelming force and fear to set foot near our borders again.”

The Admiral set her hand on the table, and made the animations of the map play on a loop.

“If no one has questions about the basics, I can discuss each position in detail.” She said.

For a moment she lost the intensity in her voice as she sat back down. She sounded quiet, satisfied.

She gazed briefly over the ring on her finger with a small smile.

Goswani immediately understood everything. This woman was not anything at all like Deshnov.

Deshnov had been reactive, he feared for their lives and was skeptical of their chances–

This woman compared the Union to the vicious Katarrans. She believed they had that much power.

Goswani grinned internally, filled with a morbid interest in this “Operation Tenable.”

Smelling blood in the water like a shark herself, and victory perhaps in their grasp.

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2 thoughts on “Arc 2 Intermissions [II.2]

  1. I love women

    Especially ones that blow up fascists

    Especially if they are Socialist officers in a red army

    I love these women

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