2950-10-26 – Tales from the Service: A View from Headquarters, Part 8 

It was a surprise to me when Admiral Abarca reached out with the news that he would be departing his command on the other side of the Gap for a high level command conference here at Maribel, and a still greater surprise that he was looking forward to meeting this embed team directly. We arranged a time and place with his staff and had a long conversation, not all of which was on the record. 

It was only afterwards that we were informed by Naval Intelligence that our recordings would be under seal for security reasons. Evidently, it was deemed important not to admit to a concentration of the Navy’s top admirals until all participants had been returned to their usual duty stations for some time. 

Even now, as press reports about the conference here in Maribel have been unsealed, the agenda of the conference still has not been released. Scuttlebutt suggests that it was mainly joint logistical planning between the Admiralty and the two fleet organizations primarily involved in this theater of war. 

This interview was conducted in-person aboard Shofeldt Station in the Maribel system during the month of August, though the precise date has been redacted by Naval Intelligence. 

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.   

K.T.K. - Captain Kenneth Kempf is the Naval Intelligence attaché to Seventh Fleet commander Admiral Shun Abarca. 

S.R.A. - Admiral Shun R. Abarca is the commander of Seventh Fleet. 


[D.L.C.] - It’s an honor to finally meet you in person, Admiral. 

[S.R.A.] - It is also good to finally sit down with you properly, Mr. Chaudhri. And you, Mr. Brand. 

[N.T.B.] - A very belated congratulations on your promotion. When we were last in touch, you were still the interim commander of Seventh Fleet. 

[S.R.A.] - Ah, that’s right. Some days I still wonder about the wisdom of that, but one does not reject the posting assigned by the Admiralty lightly. 

[D.L.C.] - Aren’t you the more senior of the two fleet admirals fighting this war? 

[S.R.A.] - Admiral Venturi may have less tenure than myself, but I bow to her greater experience in many things. Indeed, if there were two of her, we would likely see her in command on both sides of the Gap. 

[K.T.K.] - Despite Admiral Abarca’s humility, the admiralty has high confidence in both its Fifth and Seventh Fleet commanders. 

[N.T.B.] - There has been very little news from your front except reports of skirmishes around Sagittarius Gate. Seems like things over there have gotten pretty quiet. 

[S.R.A.] - Quiet? Mr. Brand, I could only hope for quiet. We average one cruiser action in the Sagittarius Gate outskirts or in nearby systems every six days. Most of them are draws, but over there, attrition is harder on us than on the enemy. 

[D.L.C.] - Nearly everything you need has to be shipped across the Gap. 

[S.R.A.] - Exactly. The precise location of the Incarnation’s home worlds is still not known, but even if they are as far from Sagittarius Gate as Centauri is from Maribel, our supply lines are much longer, and rely on the critical Gap-crossing leg. Not all of our fleet supply haulers are rated to make that run, even assuming the enemy doesn’t make trouble. 

[N.T.B.] - I hear they make trouble. 

[K.T.K.] - I would be curious from where you hear this, Mr. Brand. We try to keep the specifics quiet. 

[N.T.B.] - Just a few old connections. A good correspondent never reveals his confidential sources. 

[K.T.K.] - I see that you have taken to journalism quite quickly. Perhaps later, off the record, we can discuss this in greater detail. 

[S.R.A.] - Suffice to say that yes, increasingly the Incarnation has been trying to make trouble on our supply lines. So far, they aren’t making the situation critical. The fleet base we’ve built at Sagittarius Gate can increasingly supply basic needs from local raw materials and can withstand a lengthy siege. 

[D.L.C.] - Sounds like you’ve taken steps to prevent a repeat of the Lost Squadrons. 

[S.R.A.] - I would be a fool to do otherwise. The spacers of those ships were pushed to the last extremity to survive, and doubtless the Incarnation learned from hunting them as well. 

[N.T.B.] - Speaking of the Squadrons, the survivors brought back many wild stories. Have you been able to check up on any of them? 

[K.T.K.] - We will need to be careful in answering this question. 

[S.R.A.] - Thank you for the reminder, Captain. In short, yes, we have. For example, the report that far-flung Incarnation colonies are primarily agricultural, we have verified. A population of only a few ten thousands on one world seems to be farming the better part of a continent with only three or four distinct crops. There was almost no orbital infrastructure, and no mining operations either on the surface or in the local system. The meaning of this has yet to be determined.  

[D.L.C.] - Perhaps the plants of that world were prized on their home worlds? 

[S.R.A.] - The crops seemed not to be native species, and the crop density seemed incredibly low in most of the fields. Stranger still, we saw evidence that the colony was heavily militarized, with the population living in fortified compounds. 

[N.T.B.] - It’s a prison world. Like Meraud, except full of their own. 

[K.T.K.] - Our analysts suggested that possibility, yes. There are others as well. Unfortunately, our scouting squadron didn’t have time to land troops and investigate. 

[D.L.C.] - If they have need of prison worlds, perhaps the war is going worse for them than we thought. 

[K.T.K.] - The planet seems to have been populated for at least twenty years, but there may be others that are newer. Since they maintain social cohesion using brain-scanning implants and always-on networks, they must have methods to isolate potential dissidents before they can do any harm. 

[S.R.A.] - Stories of the existence of at least one other power – one not particularly friendly to the Incarnation – operating in the near region of the Sagittarius – also seem to be correct. We have seen no signs of open conflict between the so-called Grand Journey and the Incarnation, but both seem quite wary of the other. 

[N.T.B.] - The first time we heard about this “Grand Journey” was in an account of a Reacher encounter. Obviously there have been quite a few stories since, but the Reachers certainly seemed to know who they were. They aren’t human, are they? 

[S.R.A.] - The Grand Journey is not a human empire, but exactly what sort of creatures they are, we still don’t know. Apparently they got off to a bad start with the Incarnation, and they’re still not convinced we’re different. They stay away from Sagittarius Gate and mostly avoid our ships, which also seems to be their policy for handling the Incarnation. 

[N.T.B.] - Damned Nate is giving humans a bad reputation. I suppose it’s hard to blame them. 

[K.T.K.] - Unfortunately so. 

[D.L.C.] - Perhaps they know something about our enemies’ origins. Obviously humans can’t have been in the Sagittarius Arm for longer than a few hundred years, and more likely half that. How did The Incarnation spring up in so little time? 

[S.R.A.] - I don’t think anyone can answer that. The prisoners we’ve taken know little of their history. To learn that, we’d need a cooperative captive of Captain’s rank or higher, or perhaps one of their madcap “Inquisitors.” 

[N.T.B.] - Or we’d need to capture a planet with its data archives intact. 

[S.R.A.] - As I said last time we spoke, I doubt we’ll try anything like that soon. 

[D.L.C.] - We can only hope that Maribel is still holding out when Seventh Fleet is finally prepared to go on the offensive. 

[S.R.A.] - I have no special information about the defenses here, but my instincts suggest that Maribel will hold. It would be easier for the enemy to take Sagittarius Gate, and in any case if they continue to split their forces to threaten both, they will probably capture neither. 

[D.L.C.] - I hope you’re right, Admiral. There’s a lot of people who are predicting otherwise. 

[K.T.K.] - We have only about ten minutes remaining before our next conference gentlemen. If there are no objections, let’s go off the record. 

[D.L.C.] - Of course, Captain. Thank you both for coming to talk with us. 

[S.R.A.] - Thank you for seeing us on such short notice.