2947-10-17 – Tales from the Service: The View From Headquarters Part 2
Maribel never looked so good in a viewpanel. After several weeks in Berkant, the surviving ships (and a few shattered hulks pulled through Himura drive transition by fleet tugs) of the Saint-Lô squadron finally limped back to Maribel for repair and refit.
At the recommendation of Dr. Hirsch of the Maribel Naval Intelligence laboratory, I’ve set up another conversation with him and Col. Durand of Admiral Zahariev’s staff to discuss what we know about the Incarnation so many months into the conflict. As before, the Navy thinks an informed public – especially nonmilitary spacer community – is important to winning the war at minimum cost.
It’s interesting to note that during the last interview with these persons (Tales from the Service: The View From Headquarters), we did not know that the Incarnation was a long-isolated counterhuman faction. The Benedict Dispatch had not yet been circulated.
The four persons involved in this interview are as follows. Unlike the prior interview, this one was arranged in haste and conducted remotely via full-capture transmission; neither participant boarded Saint-Lô to speak with us in person.
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.
H.G.H. - Dr. Hartwin Hirsch is a Naval Intelligence technological research analyst at Maribel Naval Laboratory.
[D.L.C.] Thank you for talking with us again, Colonel. I know how busy you have been lately. And Doctor, thank you as well.
[H.G.H.] Any time, Mr. Chaudhri. Your studio’s coverage has been most interesting to watch. In particular, Sovanna Rostami’s vidcast programming has been a hit among my lab technicians.
[C.S.D.] I meant to set up another of these a month after the first one, actually, but what with the fallout of the Benedict Dispatch and other matters, it’s been hard to find the time.
[N.T.B.] I can imagine.
[D.L.C.] Let’s start there. If you can say, when did the information that became the Benedict Dispatch fall into Naval Intelligence’s hands? It seemed to be pretty comprehensive, not to mention sudden.
[C.S.D.] We had reports early on – mainly from the squadrons on the Sagittarius Frontier – that captured enemy launch pilots were human in appearance and genetics. These personnel were far from cooperative, and it was suspected that they were captured Confederated Worlds spacers, technologically brainwashed and sent back against us. Given the number of well-trained Naval Survey Auxiliary pilots we’d lost out there early on, that seemed the most obvious conclusion. Later, when three of these prisoners became cooperative, the truth came out. That was happening around the same time we last spoke.
[H.G.H.] The implants Incarnation personnel are fitted with render them immune to all forms of interrogation, and probably to torture as well, though I’m not aware of anyone actually torturing anyone to prove that. In late June, a clever computer systems officer aboard Arrowhawk figured out how to disable most functions of the implant without appreciably harming the prisoner, and only after that circulated did we start learning anything useful.
[D.L.C.] Arrowhawk? Captain Bosch’s ship?
[C.S.D.] Captain Bosch’s squadron twice skirmished with Tyrant cruisers-
[C.S.D.] Alpha-type cruisers – in early July, and though these battles were quite inconclusive, they managed to damage and capture three Coronach strike interceptors in the process. One of the captured pilots, Source Dalila, has gone on to become one of our best information sources, almost as good as Gabriel. Dalila was probably uncertain about the Incarnation’s goals to begin with, but with those implants, proper dissent in their ranks is all but impossible.
[N.T.B.] Surely the information a strike pilot can offer is limited. Since no Tyrant has been-
[N.T.B.] Since no Tyrant has been disabled in action and boarded, none of your assets are senior officers, are they?
[C.S.D.] Correct, though they are in a similar situation with us. Most of the missing personnel they might have taken prisoner to my knowledge are strike pilots and crews, and most of those are mercenaries.
[N.T.B.] Hell, the idea of getting grabbed by a bunch of fanatic counterhumans... What do they do to our spacers?
[H.G.H.] We don’t know, but we have speculated, and none of the speculation is pleasant. Forcible implantation is probable.
[D.L.C.] Sadly, I suspect there’s little we can do for them, short of winning. And on that note, you two know about the front-row seats Nojus and I got at Berkant. What did Naval Intelligence learn from that fiasco?
[C.S.D.] We learned a good deal, though I’m sorry to say the cost was high. Hartwin, why don’t you start with what we learned about their ships.
[H.G.H.] At Berkant, we saw them use their Alpha-type cruisers in a way that explains most of their odd design features. The odd configuration of their screening projectors, heavy armor, and focus on energy weaponry did not make much sense to us when the Incarnation was just the alien Sagittarians and it all made even less sense when we learned that they were Terran stock. Now we know the purpose of these decisions.
[N.T.B.] They were designed to hunt in packs.
[H.G.H.] Precisely. In rigid formations, those projectors result in overlapping coverage for the entire group. The power drain on the screens is distributed, making the formation far more resilient than an equivalent Navy squadron. They also have devised guidance systems capable of evasive action without breaking this formation.
[C.S.D.] We’re working on a few possible weaknesses of this tactic. Hopefully the next time they group that many ships in one place, we’ll be the ones bringing the surprise.
[D.L.C.] Captain Liao thinks Berkant was bait. Do you agree?
[C.S.D.] Absolutely. They wanted to test our capabilities in a proper engagement. They didn’t get away unscathed, and most estimates indicate that they don’t have enough ships to break the Fifth Fleet even if every battle goes that badly, but I doubt they have a very high opinion of Navy forces after Berkant.
[N.T.B.] What about their connection to the Ladeonists? Has Naval Intelligence figured this out yet?
[C.S.D.] The Ladeonists and the Incarnation have several points of ideological agreement, to the degree that we suspect the Incarnation is an offshoot of the same late Terran Sphere movement that produced Ladeonism during the period of increased cultural interactions between Terran colonies and the Rattanai Imperium. They’re natural allies, though if I were a Ladeonist I’d be worried; if they integrate with the Incarnation, this war might finally be the end of their movement.
[H.G.H.] We’re still working on estimating their breakaway date with genetic data, but we’ll need more prisoners before we have anything final.
[N.T.B.] Do you think the Ladeonist rising on the other peripheries of the Reach is coordinated? Last we talked Dr. Hirsh didn’t think so.
[C.S.D.] At this point, most analysis suggests the risings are not only related, they might be supported by the Incarnation. For example, the sophistication of the bomb used in Yaxkin City not too long ago is beyond most Ladeonist undergrounds, and Planet at Centauri is among the most Ladeonist-hostile planets in the Reach.
[D.L.C.] I haven’t heard much about that on the datasphere since the first few days. What was it about?
[C.S.D.] I can’t say too much more about it than that the bombing seems to have failed; its probable target was not harmed.
[D.L.C.] There have been incidents on several other Core Worlds and colonies as well. Every time there’s an accident or a catastrophe, someone associates it with the Ladeonist risings.
[C.S.D.] Most of the time, they’re right. As of this morning, Naval Intelligence has recorded more than five thousand instances of starship or industrial sabotage, two thousand attempted terrorist incidents, of which more than a hundred were at least somewhat successful. Most of it is low-level stuff, but concerningly less than half of that is taking place in systems with notably high Ladeonist sympathies. So far, the war effort isn’t being too badly affected – those numbers are high, but they average to less than eight incidents of any kind per star system.
[N.T.B.] Is it higher on the Frontier?
[C.S.D.] The Ladeonists hadn’t made much progress penetrating the Meriwether or Nye Norge regions prior to the conflict. So far, the Frontier is under-represented in those numbers, but the longer this goes on, the more likely that will change.
[H.G.H.] Your publication has released several stories of counterhuman saboteurs and agents targeting mercenary ships, but we don’t classify those as Ladeonist attacks. Given the techological sophistication obvious in such incidents, the culprits are almost certainly Incarnation agents.
[D.L.C.] Accounts I've borrowed from Source Gabriel mention things called Immortals and Harmonizers. Do we know what those are?
[H.G.H.] We have some idea. Elite, accomplished Incarnation personnel seem to occasionally be rewarded with more capable implant hardware; when Gabriel refers to an Immortal, it’s probably a term of respect for those who have earned the highest-quality installations.
[C.S.D.] As for Harmonizers, we have only speculation. Our analysis suggests these are a sort of secret military police, whose agents are usually Immortals with the best hardware. He doesn’t know much about them, though; they’re widely feared but almost never seen.
[N.T.B.] Even with all the technological chains on their minds, Nate needs a secret police to watch its military spacers?
[H.G.H.] It does seem excessively paranoid, given what we know about their implant technology.
[C.S.D.] I figure it’s simple; if you live all your life with those chips in your brain, you probably figure out ways to work around them in little ways if you really want to. To be fair, I suspect most of them would be true believers in their cause anyway, implants or no implants.
[N.T.B.] They’re still mostly human, and humanity finds a way.
[C.S.D.] Exactly that.
[N.T.B.] What have we learned about their culture outside of military circles?
[C.S.D.] Not much. All of our captured prisoners were brought up on agrarian colony worlds except for Source Dalila, but there’s no way they’re all farmers. Someone built their ships. I’d guess they have some sort of caste system and some castes are immune to military recruitment, but that’s my personal guess. We really don’t know.
[H.G.H.] Source Dalila is an interesting case; apparently distantly related to important figures in their ruling class. Unfortunately, she was still aboard Arrowhawk last week when the relay chain across the Gap was cut, and Bosch’s people weren’t getting much out of her on this line of questioning before that.
[N.T.B.] Is there any hope for the forces on that side?
[C.S.D.] Sadly, I don’t know what will become of them. We’ll patch the Hypercomm relay chain, of course, but it will take weeks. Admiral Zahariev is continuing to send supplies, but that will stop the moment a resupply hauler fails to return. After that...
[D.L.C.] They’re on their own.
[C.S.D.] Exactly so.
[H.G.H.] Sorry to cut this short, but I’m being called down to Lab 3. They say it’s an emergency.
[D.L.C.] That’s all right, Dr. Hirsch. Thanks again for talking with us. And you too, Colonel Durand.
[C.S.D.] Thanks for making space for us on your text feed, Mr. Chaudhri. Hopefully we’ll do this again sooner than three months from now. And Mr. Brand...
[C.S.D.] Thank you for asking the hard questions. Half the other media outlets I talk to tie themselves in knots trying to set up optimistic answers.
[N.T.B.] Oh, uh... It’s no trouble, Colonel.