2951-03-22 – Tales from the Service: A View from Headquarters, Part 9
A few days ago, Ashkelon and its small convoy reached Sagittarius Gate, where the ship on which we have been berthed formally joined Admiral Shun Abarca’s Seventh Fleet.
Almost immediately on arrival, I put in a request to sit down for an interview with Admiral Abarca, as we were able to do last August (Tales from the Service: A View from Headquarters, Part 8) when he visited Maribel. To my surprise, his people scheduled the interview in time to feature it for this week’s text feed item.
As with prior interviews, a full recording will be available on our datasphere hub. You can expect analysis of the Admiral’s answers from Ashton Pesaresi and the team on the main vidcast series later this week.
This interview was conducted in-person aboard the battleship Philadelphia in the Sagittarius Gate system on 19 March.
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.] - Thank you for seeing us once again, Admiral Abarca.
[S.R.A.] - It is my pleasure to see you both again, Mr. Chaudhri. I trust that your crossing was uneventful?
[D.L.C.] - I was somewhat concerened about the Gap crossing at first, but it was really no problem. I still remember when crossing to Sagittarius was considered risky business best left to the frontiersmen, but we’ve come a long way these past few years.
[S.R.A.] - Yes, it’s getting quite safe, isn’t it? We haven’t lost a ship in the Gap crossing since the relief of the Lost Squadrons. Though there have been a few close calls, at least some of which your publication has reported on. Martin Westland and his ship come to mind.
[K.T.K.] - And you, Mr. Brand. How did you handle the crossing?
[N.T.B.] - Ashkelon’s as comfortable as any ship I’ve rode, Admiral. And Captain Mendoza was quite accommodating to the stir-crazies some people get out there in the Gap. He did everything he could to make us not feel so confined as we might.
[K.T.K.] - Yes, I heard about your discomfort, Mr. Brand. Has someone from Seventh Fleet medical interviewed you about it yet?
[N.T.B.] - They've got me scheduled for next Friday. How many people have that sort of reaction?
[S.R.A.] - Ah, perhaps half of one percent of habitual spacers. Two or three percent of those less occustomed to a spacer’s lifestyle. We still do not know the cause, but suspect it may be related to the discomfort some feel during Himura star drive transitions.
[N.T.B.] - Hmm. The Himura never yanked my chain. Weird I’d get this.
[K.T.K.] - The admiral refers to analysis which is still in progress, which he has been following closely. That hypothesis is still unproven, and your interview with medical will perhaps be useful in disproving it.
[D.L.C.] - It is strange to hear of an admiral being so involved in medical studies such as this.
[S.R.A.] - Is it, Mr. Chaudhri? My command’s flanks hang in the open, and my supply lines all cross a region of space which causes such discomforts seemingly at random. I do not think that I can afford not to follow the issue.
[D.L.C.] - That does make sense.
[N.T.B.] - And yet, despite having no supporting positions and a tenuous line of supply, morale here at Sagittarius Gate seems quite high.
[S.R.A.] - Partly, you are seeing the salutary effect of Ashkelon’s arrival on morale here. Seventh fleet’s battle line is still under strength, and we rely on the presence of mercenary auxiliaries to keep Sagittarius Gate secure. With a few more arrivals from the Core Worlds, we might allow their contracts to be transferred to other commands.
[N.T.B.] - Yes, we have seen many reports of the heavy presence of Sovereign Security Solutions in Sagittarius, including their company flagship.
[K.T.K.] - Sundiver has been here, yes, but since this interview is on the record, we cannot say where it is now. Other Sovereign forces on permanent station are more meaningful to the defense of this system.
[D.L.C.] - Even accounting for the fact that we arrived aboard a new battleship for your fleet, the high spirits we’ve seen everywhere aboard your ship and elsewhere are hard to explain. Your command has been attacked more regularly and heavily than Fifth Fleet at Maribel, and many of its ships are far older than their Fifth Fleet counterparts. You also mentioned that the Seventh is under-strength.
[S.R.A.] - The Fifth is also under-strength, but in different ways. Admiral Venturi has a solid battle line and numerous modern cruiser units. I have been given nearly a full fleet’s compliment of destroyers and light fleet units, most of them among the newest models available, but must make do with roughly half a proper battle-line and fewer fixed defenses.
[N.T.B.] - That being the case, you would think the Fifth Fleet’s morale would be higher; spacers love the feeling of being watched over by plenty of big guns.
[K.T.K.] - Fifth Fleet has also been in the fight longer and has had to defend far more places than we have. We have one system to defend, and have defended it so far. Fifth Fleet is defending an entire region, and has held the most critical point, but has been forced to cede much else. Trading space for time is always bad for morale.
[S.R.A.] - I would love to be able to point to some factor of my command style which has produced the high morale you’ve seen here compared to at Maribel, but very rarely is anything so simple. We have less forces, but less to defend, and have not ceded any stars to the enemy. This is also a disadvantage; we have no stars to cede, should overwhelming force oppose us.
[D.L.C.] - Ah yes. Your flanks hang in the open. You have no friendly port to retreat to, should the Incarnation find the strength to crush Sagittarius Gate.
[K.T.K.] - You might think it strange to say this on the record, but this is as obvious to the enemy as to us. Mr. Chaudhri, your outfit’s transfer was not accidental. After Operation Firmanent, it is the opinion of Naval Intelligence that the enemy will decide that Sagittarius Gate looks easier than Maribel to reduce. Your team will report on many battles in the coming months.
[S.R.A.] - Indeed. I expect the strongest attack yet seen on Sagittarius Gate to occur within the next six weeks.
[N.T.B.] - Fifth Fleet expected a major attack on Maribel during January, and did not receive one. Naval Intelligence probably signed off on that prediction, too.
[K.T.K.] - Indeed. All intelligence pointed to an attack on Maribel. That attack did not take place. We are still not certain why, or where those forces were diverted to. Perhaps they were being moved into position to attack us here already, along a circuitous route to avoid detection.
[D.L.C.] - A major push against this system could really happen any day?
[S.R.A.] - Absolutely. We do not have the mentality of a besieged force, as you have seen, but we are far more besieged than Maribel ever was.
[N.T.B.] - And if Nate does go for Maribel after all, you’re having to plan an offensive to take advantage of it, and vice versa?
[S.R.A.] - Correct, Mr. Brand. Though this is not likely to happen, we have several plans for a push outward toward the nearest Incarnation settlements, should an attack on Maribel still develop. Fifth Fleet will certainly move to liberate worlds if the enemy fleet concentrates more completely on this side of the Gap.
[N.T.B.] - Why not break out now, then? Attack before they can gather their forces?
[K.T.K.] - On this we can speak only in generalities, you understand.
[S.R.A.] - An attack toward enemy systems before their fleet movements are known would present high risk for unknown effects on enemy morale and behavior. Such an attack in the necessary strength would leave Sagittarius Gate exposed. We might take a few stars only to strand Seventh Fleet deep in enemy territory with no supply lines, instead of a tenuous one.
[D.L.C.] - Thus, you and Admiral Venturi must wait until the enemy moves, or at least starts to move.
[S.R.A.] - Not for much longer, I hope. The tempo of enemy operations is slowing, especially here in Sagittarius. After their next big move, we will have much freedom to act, perhaps for a very long time.
[K.T.K.] - With that, gentlemen, we must bring this discussion to a close. Admiral Abarca and I will be needed in a command conference shortly.
[D.L.C.] - Thank you for your time, Admiral. And you, Captain.
[S.R.A.] - It has been a pleasure to speak to you both in person once more. I hope we can do this again very soon.