2949-11-30 – Tales from the Service: The Kingfisher Trial 

Despite numerous skirmishes here in the Milian system, the Incarnation fleet stationed at Hallman has yet to make a move toward Berkant. The Fifth Fleet picket line has suffered a number of small vessels damaged and destroyed in these skirmishes, but no major warships have been removed from the fleet’s order of battle, while it’s expected that at least two of the Tyrant heavy-cruiser analogues sent to probe the fleet screen have been damaged sufficiently to render them not suitable for future combat. 

Of course, the enemy fleet at Hallman has at least thirty-five ships of that type remaining in good order, and a number of auxiliaries, including troop ships. Admiral Zahariev’s staff indicates that they think this force insufficient to defeat Fifth Fleet in open battle, but also worries that Hallman is a trap, and does not want to go on the offensive until more intelligence is gained. A few scouting flights have been made (Tales from the Service: Watching Hallman), but the enemy is increasingly learning to keep these prying eyes at a safe distance. 

With the civilian population of the system largely evacuated, and extensive ground-side defenses on Berkant, there seems little reason to remain on the defensive, but Admiral Zahariev seems to be taking a methodical approach. I for one don’t blame him; if the enemy retreats from Hallman, they open themselves up to a disastrous rout in open space, and if they remain, their fleet remains pinned down and incapable of taking the offensive elsewhere. 

As reported last week, a few squadrons in Fifth Fleet have been equipped with the new Kingfisher strike gunship; this sleek, high-tech war machine built with the assistance of Kosseler designers is meant to outperform enemy strike formations in ways the rugged, dependable Magpie could not. There have also been rumors of a revised Magpie variant being tested in less active theaters of the conflict, though most likely the two projects are intended to be complementary rather than competing for the same role. After brief training cycles with the new machines, I am told that the first Kingfishers saw action only a few days ago on the Milian skirmish line, and all indications are that their first taste of combat went quite well. 

Vitali Borja scanned the cockpit displays in his new gunship rig. Only nine days before, he’d ferried the shiny new Kingfisher gunship from a fleet tender, and though all twelve of the new rigs had been out on training exercises every day since, he still hadn’t gotten used to the streamlined displays and their adaptive holographic control surfaces. Every time he sat down, he still looked for the bank of switches and buttons that controlled the startup sequence of a Magpie, instead of focusing on the main display, where a series of virtual controls and timing indicators would walk him through the sequence. 

Fortunately, the one thing that had survived a mad Kosseler engineer’s fixation with adaptive controls was the twin-stick piloting arrangement common to most strike rigs. Vitali couldn’t imagine going into a fight without the feel of physical triple-axle control sticks, and the controls of the Kingfisher felt all the more solid for being some of the only hardware controls in the entire cockpit. 

“Dorsal guns are go.” Cadeyrn Landon, one of Vitali’s gunners, snapped his attention away from the feel of the inactive controls. Vitali could tell the phrase “dorsal guns” was still new to Landon, who’d previously operated the single portside quadmount turret of their Magpie. Now, he had a battery of four weapons to manage – two rapid-fire railgun mounts, and two high-tech but short-ranged plasma cannons. 

 “Ventral guns are go.” Sandeep Patel, a squadron rookie with only a few dozen hours of combat ops, had taken to the arrangement of the new Kingfishers far more quickly. “Ordinance bay is go.” Vitali had high hopes for Patel; he was a natural in the gunnery role, but he needed a few more missions of real combat to knock the green off. 

“Flight systems...” Vitali scanned the board and started the warmup sequence for the twin gravitic drive units that would hurl his craft through space at speeds he preferred not to think about too hard. If the inertial isolation system failed during a combat maneuver, he wouldn’t really have time to think about it before he was reduced to a gritty pink paste anyway. “Flight systems are go. Onboard datasystems are go.” 

Vitali also ran a quick diagnostic on the beam cannon built into the Kingfisher’s nose, though he didn’t bother to report the results to his compatriots. The bow cannon, controlled by a trigger on one of his control sticks, was the least important weapon on the whole rig, especially in combat against nimble Incarnation Coronachs. 

Vitali glanced at a screen to his left, and hurriedly reached up to tap a yellow control there, which immediately switched to green. “Fisher Three reporting a green board. Awaiting launch clearance.” 

“Roger, Three. Hangar depressurization is ongoing. You’ll be second in the launch order.” Fidelity’s hangar ops chief, the silky-voiced Commander Amalberti, stood silhouetted in the hangar observation deck as she replied over the squadron’s comms channel. “Head out on vector two-zero-five, one-ten.” 

“Two-zero-five, one-ten.” As Vitali repeated the instruction, one of the secondary screens lit up and displayed a wireframe of Fidelity and the indicated course vector leading away from the hangar doors. He didn’t know if the onboard computer had loaded the course from the carrier’s datasystems, or parsed the radio transmission, and it didn’t really matter. 

Across the hangar’s broad deck, a launch platform lifted a sleek Kingfisher several meters above its fellows, allowing it to gently nudge forward and upward against the pull of the carrier’s A-grav. As soon as it lifted off, his heads-up display marked it as Fisher Two, Lieutenant Tollemache’s rig. The Kingfisher turned to orient itself with the elliptical maw of the still-closed launch doors. Tollemache probably didn’t have clearance for the rapid-launch she was lining up, but Vitali doubted anyone would reprimand her for the maneuver on a combat mission. 

When the bay finished its depressurization and the doors yawned open, Fisher Two surged forward, passing out into open space before the big armored iris had opened all the way. Vitali couldn’t help but be impressed; the Lieutenant’s rig had cleared the doors with less than two meters to spare on either side. For that needless risk, the squadron executive officer might earn a reprimand from Commander Roubio, but Vitali doubted it would be a terribly forceful one. Roubio had a soft spot for daredevils. 

With a bump, the platform carrying Vitali’s craft began to rise, and he decoupled the landing gear latches. With the slightest nudge on the sticks, he brought the Kingfisher off the rectangle of hangar deck and oriented it with the doors. Another nudge, and he sailed through into the infinite black of interplanetary space. Milian, the local star, drowned out all others, though the adaptive viewpanels dimmed its fierce light considerably. He set the autopilot, then sat back as the craft oriented itself on his authorized departure vector and began accelerating away from Fidelity. 

Within minutes, all twelve Kingfishers and six Magpies of Fisher Squadron had launched and formed up behind Fisher One, Roubio’s rig Bluetail. Vitali slaved his helm controls to the squadron commander’s channel, then checked his systems one more time as Roubio led them all away from the carrier and toward the fleet picket line. 

“Stay sharp, everybody.” Roubio still, Vitali suspected, thought that phrase improved morale, even though everyone else thought it archaic and meaningless. “Two flights of Coronachs are harassing one of the picket frigates up ahead.” 

Vitali winced; even with the fire support of a frigate, their sixteen gunships would be facing at least twenty of the enemy flyers, possibly as many as thirty. For their first action in the new rigs, those were hardly ideal odds. 

“What caliber of pilots are we expecting, Commander?” Tollemache, cool and collected as always, interrupted the incomfortable silence that ensued after their leader’s announcement. 

“According to the frigate’s estimates, these guys are average at best. No Immortals.” 

That, at least, was a relief; Vitali and his compatriots hadn’t yet tangled with the rare but all-but-unbeatable bionic super-pilots the Incarnation sometimes employed, but they’d all heard stories of squadrons who had been bested by one or two of these elite strike flyers. If the Coronach pilots ahead weren’t particularly skilled, and Fisher Squadron stuck to the tactics it had been working on for the last week, the fight would be at least slightly in their favor. 

“You’d think they’d find something soft for us to cut our teeth on.” Landon grumbled on the gunship’s intercom. 

“They probably did.” Patel replied before Vitali could reprimand the comment. “We’ll be fine, Cade.” 

As the smart viewpanel magnified infinitesimal flashes ahead to show a wildly maneuvering warship being chased by a swarm of darting pinpricks that could only be Coronachs, Vitali hoped the rookie was right. 

2949-11-23 – Tales from the Service: The Kingfisher Surprise 

“Come on, Vitali.” Commander Adam Roubio, the squadron commander, slapped Vitali Borja on the shoulder, nearly causing him to inhale his mouthful of vaguely chicken-flavored stew substitute. 

Swallowing hurriedly before his body could begin coughing to expel the small amount of food which had managed to worm its way down his windpipe, Vitali held up a hand for Roubio to wait as he recovered. Expecting the man to wait, he realized as he stood up and turned around, had been a bit silly. Roubio was already halfway across the mess hall, giving the same treatment to another member of the squadron’s flight crew. Fortunately for most of the unit, Vitali’s hacking coughs had served as a warning that Roubio was in the compartment. 

Stuffing his mostly-untouched tray into a return receptacle, Vitali hurried after the whirl of activity caught in Commander Roubio’s orbit. He didn’t know what it was this time, but if they were being scrambled without a carrier-wide alert, it wasn’t the big battle everyone was expecting. That was itself a sort of comfort, but dying in a low-level pre-battle skirmish was just as fatal as dying in a proper stand-up fight of cruisers and battlewagons trading salvos across the beaten firmament, and smaller ships brawling in the space between for the right to disrupt the big ships' operations. 

The dozen-odd personnel, most still asking various flavors of “what’s going on?” at odd intervals, followed Roubio out of the mess hall. They received no information for their troubles. Vitali, seeing that his commander had not collected the whole roster, instead hung back and tried to divine the commander’s intentions from the people he’d gathered. Rik Baines had been chosen, but his better half (at least in looks) Margurite had been left in the mess hall. Dour T.K. Jager, the most experienced strike gunner in any squadron on Fidelity, had been left scowling into his coffee, but the rookie pilot of his rig, one Van Houten, was close on Commander Roubio’s heels. He’d picked eleven, all pilots of their respective Magpies, and no gunners. 

Since Roubio himself piloted the squadron’s lead rig, that meant he wanted something – twelve somethings – flown, but probably not taken into a proper fight. Going into a battle against agile Coronachs in a Magpie with its guns under strict control of the main targeting system was not a good survival strategy on the best of days, and even the ever-energetic Roubio was not suicidal enough to try it unless he had a very good plan. Most likely, Vitali concluded, they were needed to ferry a few of Fidelity’s ready spare Magpies to one of the other Fifth Fleet support carriers. 

As it turned out, Vitali was almost correct. After a quick stop in the ready-room to switch from their uniforms to their flight suits, the commander led them onto the carrier’s main hangar deck and up the boarding ramp of a boxy personnel shuttle. 

“Strap in, ladies and gentlemen.” Roubio gestured to the seats along either bulkhead. “We’re heading for Rietveld.” 

Vitali took a seat next to Baines as the ramp retracted and the pressure doors clamped shut. If they were riding across on a shuttle, the rigs they were ferrying would be their ride back. Rietveld was one of the carrier’s tenders; it was functionally a hauler with its forward cargo bay converted into a low-grade hangar. It was strange that they’d be flying spares off the tender to Fidelity, because the carrier’s squadrons fresh from a long stint at Maribel, had full complements of spare rigs available. He didn’t bother trying to puzzle it out in further detail, though. With battle looming, he could hardly blame command for wanting an over-abundance of reserves. 

“Borja, you look like you’ve got something figured out.” 

Vitali looked up to see Lieutenant Jessica Tollemache fixing him with her icy stare. The squadron executive officer had been assigned to Roubio’s squadron only recently, but nobody could argue with her experience, or with the blue-green and white Centaur Cross emblem on her lapel. She’d been one of the few survivors of a squadron cut to pieces at the first Battle of Berkant, back when the Incarnation’s tactics and equipment were still very much unknown. 

“Looks like we’re doing a ferry job to me, Lieutenant. What’s to figure out?” Several of the others, including Baines, were watching him, and Vitali didn’t like being the center of attention. 

Tollemache managed to chuckle without smiling or lowering her gaze. “You’re missing something, then. You should have guessed already.” 

“Guessed what, ma’am?” 

“Since when has the Commander been so excited about a ferry job?” 

Vitali glanced sidways at Commander Roubio. Now that Tollemache had pointed it out, he could see more than the man’s usual frenetic energy powering his incapacity to sit still. Roubio seemed hardly present as the shuttle bumped free of its clamps and headed for the hangar hatches, as if he was already somewhere out there, in the cluttered hangar aboard Rietveld. 

“Is he up for a new rig, Lieutenant? Something wrong with Redtail?” Redtail was Roubio’s Magpie, a command variant with better comms and computer systems than most. 

This time, Tollemache smiled. She rarely did, and Vitali decided quickly that he preferred it when she didn’t. “You're up for a new rig too.” 

“Oy, there’s nothing wrong with Grigor V. Just had a full over-” 

“Wasn’t saying there was, Mr. Borja.” 

Vitali leaned back, frowning. Why would the Navy replace perfectly good Magpies? It had been barely two hundred flight ops hours since their last total overhaul, and most of the squadron’s rigs had been replaced back at Maribel anyway. 

Tollemache nodded her encouragement. “I can’t tell you, but if you guess now, it won’t hurt anything.” 

Vitali closed his eyes for a moment. If the batch of Magpies they’d been issued was defective, they’d be flying off eighteen units, not twelve. This had to be an upgrade worth junking twelve perfectly good Magpies, and that meant it wasn’t just a rollover from one incremental model to the next. “We’re getting something newer. Something way better.” 

Tollemache said nothing, but her single raised eyebrow told Vitali he was right. Several of the others, having listened to the exchange, began talking all at once, exploding with speculation as to what they would be picking up when they reached Rietveld. 

Fortunately, they didn’t have long to wait. The shuttle entered the tender’s bay and bumped down to the deck less than twenty minutes after it cleared Fidelity’s hangar doors. The moment it touched down, Roubio loosed his restraints and sprung to his feet. “Follow me, pilots. I’ve got something to show you.” 

The commander paced in front of the pressure doors until the tender’s hangar had repressurized, then squeezed out before they’d even fully opened. The others, having heard Vitali’s speculation, were close behind him, but Vitali himself hung back. If there were twelve pilots, there would be twelve rigs, after all; he hardly needed to rush. 

“Patient. I like that.” 

Vitali turned around to find Lieutenant Tollemache still languidly unhooking her restraints. “Seems pointless to rush, Ma’am.” They were alone in the shuttle, now, except the pilot behind his sealed cockpit door, and somehow without the presence of the other members of the squadron, the woman wasn’t nearly as intimidating. Still, he squirmed under her undivided attention; Tollemache was a notoriously strict enforcer of regulations and military discipline. 

“Sure is, but excitement gets the better of even the Commander sometimes.” She didn’t smile, but her icy-blue eyes flashed with more mirth than any smile could. If he didn’t know better, Vitali might think she was making fun of the boisterous squadron leader. “From what I hear, the new Kingfisher Gunships are going to be a real treat to fly.” 

“Kingfisher, eh?” Vitali’s imagination seized on the name. It was a good name, at least as the Navy named its strike classes. “I haven’t heard anything in the rumor mill.” 

Tollemache walked past Vitali to follow the rest of the pilots down the ramp. “Well, you’re about to. Come on.” 

Last week we published a story of Incarnation innovation in the pre-battle environment here in Berkant. Far be it from us to imply that the Navy is not also making improvements. 

Limited numbers of the new Kingfisher gunship have been introduced into the battlespace. Though not as powerfully armed or as durable as the Magpie, this strike unit is designed to penetrate escort screens and shred formations of strike bombers and other slow, cumbersome strike-scale units. Squadrons composed of both Kingfishers and Magpies are theorized to be the perfect counter to Jericho Bomber raids escorted heavily by Coronach interceptors. 

There are other weapons and systems being tested out by the Navy in this theater, though Naval Intelligence is rather tight-lipped about most of them for obvious reasons. The Kingfisher program, designed by a joint team of Kosseler Premium Products and Centauri Naval Yards technicians, is the first major weapon system brought from point zero to full field testing in this war, but it is hardly going to be the last. 

2949-11-16 – Tales from the Service: The Skirmish Line Testbed 

While there has been no full scale battle here at Berkant, there have been several skirmishes along the Fifth Fleet outer defensive perimeter. Most of these are engagements between enemy strike units and our own, with occasional participation by picket cutters and frigates, but on two occasions, a lone Tyrant cruiser has attempted to bull through the pickets, requiring in a response by Confederated light cruisers and destroyers. On both occasions, the enemy cruiser was damaged and forced to withdraw back to Hallman, though losses have been suffered by our forces as well. 

What’s interesting about these skirmishes is that the enemy seems to be using them as controlled test environments for new weapons. We’ve seen a trio of new enemy fast frigate analogue make their appearance in these skirmishes, though little is known about these vessels that I can relay. Perhaps these three are the only ones that exist to date, but I think we can expect to see more if the enemy likes their performance here. Their main role seems to be hunting assault cutters, and they’re probably intended to take on Fifth Fleet’s stealth cutters as well. 

More concerningly, in the second cruiser-level incursion, the light cruiser Drachenblanche briefly tangled with the enemy intruder and discovered that it was not armed along the lines of the standard Tyrant model. The inclusion of a heavy kinetic prow cannon to this new variant (already being referred to as Tyrant-B) is probably intended to introduce weapons capable of threatening total destruction of the eight Confederated battleships of the Fifth Fleet line. 

While this is probably the objective, single cannons firing on fixed arcs, even of the largest caliber, still present little threat to our battleships. 

[N.T.B. - Drachenblanche got lucky. This was probably a prototype weapon, but I imagine the enemy has got something on their slipways that will carry more than one of them.]  

Captain Lukas Sorrentino felt his ship shudder even through the inertial isolation field as a pair of warheads detonated in its shear-screens. With the first salvo from Drachenblanche's launchers already on the way to the opposing cruiser and the missile-room crews hurriedly reloading for another volley, he had little to do but hold onto his console and wait to see the result. 

Though he refused to let the command part of his brain focus on the thought too long, Lukas knew Drachenblanche was hideously outmatched. Though his cruiser was nimble and carried a lot of firepower for its weight, the single Incarnation “Tyrant” heavy cruiser which he was dueling with outmassed him by almost two to one and had an arsenal to match. Drachenblanche could weather a few more salvos at long range before its defenses degraded too far and it suffered a hit, but once it did, he’d be forced to withdraw. The ship’s chance of survival if that first hit crippled the screens or gravitic drive were effectively nil. 

Fortunately, Lukas wasn’t fighting alone. Drachenblanche had moved out to engage the probing enemy ship with a trio of destroyers in the van and a fire-support frigate in close escort position. As the fight unfolded, the frigates and cutters along the picket line were also beginning to trickle in, adding the long-range firepower of their railguns and launchers to the ordinance hurled at the incoming cruiser. All those other ships equalized the tonnage situation and almost made up for the firepower discrepancy, as long as Drachenblanche itself could weather the full force of the hostile cruiser’s main weapons. 

“Aspect change.” The voice was that of Commander Biskup, skipper of the destroyer Zeman. “Advise enemy cruiser is opening hangars.” 

“Understood. All ships, start railshot denial on probable attack vectors.” Lukas started a timer, and a red sphere began to billow out from the enemy ship’s position on his display. Coronachs were notoriously hard to detect in open space, even with their tiny gravitic drives burning at full gee, so the computer would keep track of any place they might be until the squadrons were spotted. If the cruiser carried the rarer Jericho strike bombers, they would be somewhat easier to find, but also somewhat more dangerous to his ships.  

As each ship in the growing melee diverted several of its rapid-fire light railguns to spraying ferroceramic slugs into space in the hopes of catching the incoming strike squadrons unawares, something occurred to Lukas. Though the Tyrant type had a sizable launch hangar within its hull, its hangar doors were quite small. Their opening should not have been visible at long weapons range. “Zeman, please confirm. Opening hangars?” 

After a few seconds courtesy of the speed-of-light signal flitting from Drachenblanche to Zeman and back, Lukas heard the reply. “Aye, Captain. Visual observation confirmed.” 

Before he quite understood why, Lukas switched channels. “Helm, full evasive. Now.” 

To her credit, the officer at the helm didn’t hesitate. The hum of the reactor feeding power to the gravitic drive went up an octave and the little wireframe of Drachenblanche pirouetted in Lukas’s display. Courtesy of the inertial isolation systems, he felt none of the violent acceleration. 

“Evasive engaged, Captain. What’s-” 

The cruiser rocked and the lights flickered as a short-lived star bloomed into being not far from the ship’s port quarter. Lukas noted with grim satisfaction that the explosion, only thirty kilometers away, was right where his ship would have been, had he not ordered evasive action. Evasion didn’t fool missiles and torpedoes, but sensors could track their approach – this was something different. 

“Relativistic cannon. A big one, too." Lukas answered the incomplete question, as much for himself as for the helm officer. Up until that point, Incarnation ships had generally lacked kinetic armament, and so his ship, like most Confederated warships, had long since dispensed with standard evasive maneuvers during battle. “Continue evasive and advise all ships. This Tyrant isn’t the standard model. Commence evasive maneuvers.” 


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.