[initiate wall of text]
The door to the briefing room opened with a soft hiss and a faint grinding of metal and two troopers bearing the insignia of an Admiral’s Guard took positions next to it, their expressions blank. A sergeant stepped into the low-lit room and saluted crisply.
“The system Governor has arrived, Sir!
” he snapped.
Rear Admiral Kalazonitov tore his eyes away from the holographic displays he and his staff were poring over and returned the salute.
“Very well, Uryadnik
. Lead him in, if you please. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’ll be all, for now. Tanya, Dmitri, please stay. Captain Urumov, I will see you on the bridge.”
As the staff officers saluted and shuffled out of the room, the admiral settled back into his chair with a faint sigh of relief, taking care not to snag his ceremonial blade in the armrests and laying his walking cane across his lap. He very pointedly did not
reach for the half-full glass of vodka on the small table next to him, although, by the Empress, he needed the drink.
“Is everything ready?” he asked the slender woman who slid to parade rest next to his chair with the practiced ease and silence of a shadow, her hands clasped behind her back.
“We did cover every issue in the schedule, Admiral,” she replied “and everything seems to be working out as best as one could hope, under the circumstances”.
“And the circumstances being what they are, one should not hope for much,” Kalazonitov said crossly. “But what I meant was, is everything ready in regards to our guest?”
“Absolutely, Sir,” his aide said, producing a dataslate reader and a small container, filled with data storage crystals.
Kalazonitov nodded and turned to the other person still remaining in the room, a Fighter Command Captain standing at attention near the end of the long briefing table.
“Sit, Dmitri, please,” he said, gesturing toward a chair next to him and the FCC covered the distance in a few brisk steps and sat with the promptness of a well-trained dog. “I didn’t want to raise the issue during the briefing, so as not to further impact morale, but I assume there are no good news on your front?”
“No, Sir!” Dmitri Grishenko replied crisply, leaning forward in a way that radiated keenness and concern. “Not really. I am afraid the absence of any 3rd-generation fighters in the system supply stations has been confirmed. We have had the opportunity to top off our logistic vessels on 2nd-generation spare parts, thankfully, but we will be flying rust-buckets, sure enough.”
“And any 3rd-generation fighters will have to be transported to the front lines from the Core worlds, after lots of bureaucratic nonsense and delays, while the 1st and 2nd Fleets are getting torn apart,” Kalazonitov mused darkly. “Oh well, the Tenants do say we must do with what we have.” He shrugged and smiled bitterly. “But that doesn’t mean one must not strive to acquire more
,” he concluded. “As I will now demonstrate. Tanya, make sure the discussion is recorded.”
The door opened again and the two troopers escorted a man into the room. The newcomer was dressed in civilian attire, perfectly tailored to hide the beginnings of a paunch and decorated with the crimson sash of a high-ranking government official. He oozed confidence from every pore, and gave Tanya an appreciative one-over as he entered, not bothering to hide his grin.
“Ah, Governor!” Kalazonitov said, his tone jovial. “Welcome! Please excuse me for not standing to meet you, but … old wounds you see.”
The Admiral knocked on his left knee and a hollow metal sound rang out. “Lost it three years ago in a shuttle accident. Please let me introduce myself. Rear Admiral Ivan Kalazonitov, at your service. This is my aide, Lieutenant Commander Tanya Skivlana and my Flight Commander, Dmitri Grishenko.”
“A pleasure, Admiral,” the Governor replied, with a slight bow. “May I ask how I can be of assistance?”
“Ah, yes.” Kalazonitov gestured towards the chair opposite to his and Governor Di Xin settled into it like a fish slipping into a pond. “Please excuse my summons, but I am afraid there are some issues which have to be addressed before my fleet leaves orbit for Silva.”
“This should be interesting,” the Governor said, leaning back and radiating concern. “I wonder what issues those are, that must be discussed with me and not with my subordinates.”
Kalazonitov also leaned back, and Skivlana placed the dataslate reader into his outstretched hand. “First of all, Governor, I would like to thank you in person for the swift assistance and the quality supplies you provided my fleet when we arrived in-system.”
“No thanks are required,” Di Xin said with a magnanimous wave of his hand. “I did only my duty and, after all, I am just a co-ordinator.”
“If you say so,” Kalazonitov nodded. “Nevertheless, I feel I had to thank you. No doubt, the delivery of faulty spare parts as part of the supplies was a regrettable mistake.”
The Governor’s expression froze.
“And the plasma conduits with expired cooling gel packs for the energy batteries of my Grashdanin
cruisers must have been mistakenly redirected by some careless official,” Kalazonitov continued, in a pleasant tone, glancing towards the dataslate. “My technicians inform me that they were long past their expiry date and in the brink of catastrophic failure. Even disposal in a proper facility would be hazardous.”
The Governor sat bolt upright. “I…”
“I am absolutely convinced that those incidents that might very well have been considered criminal negligence or even wartime sabotage by other commanders were not due to any lack of attention on your part.” Kalazonitov concluded with a smile that very obviously did not reach his sunken eyes.
“I … assure you, Admiral, that those responsible will be identified and properly chastised for their negligence,” Di Xin said, his voice steady, but his complexion slightly pale.
“Very good!” Kalazonitov exclaimed. “I can ask for nothing more. That said, and with the pleasantries out of the way, I must tell you that there are things that concern me. For instance, are you aware that your supply depots are sorely lacking in supplies?”
“What?” The Governor seemed genuinely taken aback. “I assure you that they operate well within official parameters.”
“Not so,” the Admiral stated, slotting a new data crystal into the reader. The screen flashed an alarming shade of red. “You see, despite satisfying amounts of 2nd generation fighter spare parts and capital ship ordnance being available, you are unable to supply my fleet with any 3rd generation units.”
“That is hardly the fault of my supply officers!” the Governor protested. “No such units were delivered!”
“Quite so,” the Admiral agreed. “However, it is the circumstances
under which no such units were delivered that concern me. You see, it appears that, while the fighters scheduled to arrive here were diverted to the 5th Core Fleet, your supply officers did, somehow, acknowledge receipt of them and have continued
to draw amounts from BuFunds for those vessels’ maintenance. Essentially, the Dynasty fleet is somehow maintaining those fighters both in the Core Worlds and
Kalazonitov lowered the dataslate and stared at Di Xin like a cat looks at a broken-winged bird. “Tell me, Governor, do your men travel through six starlances and back, once per month to check on those fighters? I thought not.”
The Admiral leaned forward. “But I would be willing to overlook this, if your people’s meddling with the official records had not resulted in them clearly stating that a fleet’s worth of Spirt-Voz and Ray platforms were
available here and if I, therefore, hadn’t counted
on them being available. Imagine my surprise when it turned out they weren’t
“I will not stand here and be insulted because some lowly officials decided to embezzle funds of the military!” the Governor protested. “I can hardly be expected to be aware of every small-time crook’s efforts. My responsibility reached as far as approving the diversion of the fighters to 5th Fleet and this I did precisely
according to regulations. This is clearly the fault of the bureaucrats at your funding department, who failed to notice the embezzlement earlier!”
“And trust me, they are currently under investigation
,” the Admiral stated coldly. “My people did some investigating themselves, however. It seems that your people's money laundering pipeline was not as secure as they thought.” Kalazonitov slid the dataslate on the table, toward the Governor. “Can you explain how almost sixty percent of the embezzled funds ended up in bank accounts owned by you or members of your family, Governor?”
There was silence for a few seconds, which seemed like ages. Then Di Xin opened his mouth to say…something, but the Admiral cut him off with a sharp gesture.
“You have lined your pockets with stolen silver, Di Xin,” Kalazonitov growled, leaning back into the shadow of his chair, his gangly limbs remindful of those of a spider sitting in its web and feeling an interesting set of vibrations. “And not only this once. You have squeezed your system dry, always taking care not to leave any trace. And you would have succeeded
in getting away with it if not for this war. You see, there is military law
now. And as senior military leader in this system, I could – and did
, order investigations using more thorough means than those available during peacetime, especially if I suspect sabotage or treason.”
The Admiral’ s hand reached for the glass of vodka next to him almost by itself, but Kalazonitov jerked it back with a tic-like gesture.
“Again, I might have overlooked it,” he sighed. “But thanks to your efforts of the last five years, I have to go to battle with a fleet that is barely combat-worthy, especially compared to its potential on paper. The conscripts, enlisted men and officers you have provided me are frankly, useless. While they were civilians you bled them dry and now their morale is abysmal, as they think they will have to risk their lives for the sake of your wallet’s safety and not the Empress or the Motherland. I’ll have to drill them hard
while advancing, I’ll have to somehow
lift up their spirits and I’ll still have serious
doubts that they will not prove unworthy of their uniforms. All in all, Governor, you have made my life very difficult indeed and I am not pleased at all
Di Xin’s eyes darted around the room, but the stone-cold expression of Lieutenant Commander Skivlana and Captain Grishenko’s murderous glare offered him scarce comfort.
“What you are probably thinking, right now, is ‘why am I not mining crystals yet?’
” Kalazonitov continued mercilessly. “That is mainly because I can still use
you. You have contacts, you have your slimy tentacles spread throughout the system and change of authority at this point would only cause further delays. However, do not misunderstand me.” Once more he leaned forward and his eyes were as cold as the tundra of Siberia IV. “You are, by any
definition of the words, a criminal
, a traitor
and an all-in-all waste of oxygen
and if I ever hear a peep of complaint out of you or because
of you, I will have you in front of a military court in a heartbeat.
“You will become the most ardent
of supporters of the military. You will spend a gracious
amount of your own wealth to keep my men and women flying and fighting and you will use your considerable
political clout to divert as many assets to the frontlines as possible. I want you to work miracles, Governor, because, frankly, it is a miracle you retained your position.
“And do not waste any breath praying for my death on the field. I have taken measures to keep you on a short leash even if the war claims me.”
The Admiral leaned back and drank his vodka with a swift flick of his wrist. Then he pressed the intercom button on his chair
“Send in Boris.”
The door opened and a giant in a Chief Petty Officer uniform entered the room, snapping to attention with a thud that shook the floor. His face was scarred with burn marks, common to foundry workers and he saluted the Admiral with pride almost resembling hero worship.
“Governor, meet CPO Boris Karcharoff,” the Admiral snapped. “He will be your liaison and bodyguard from now on. We cannot have anything bad happening to you, can we?”
The giant smiled and the Governor had a brief mental image of a bear baring its fangs.
“I must warn you,” the Admiral said with a wintry smile “that he will be reporting your every move to me and that it is his reports that will determine whether I will continue to prop up your little house of cards. Rest assured that he will be accurate
. The fact that he was unjustly re-assigned to a position of lower responsibility by one of your corrupt employees who wanted a scapegoat before he joined the Fleet and I discovered his many talents should not affect his judgment too
“Now get out Governor. I have a Fleet to run.”
Not long after the door had closed after the hastily retreating Di Xin and the satisfied Captain Grishenko, Kalazonitov sighed and thumbed on the holomaps of the briefing table.
“We can probably hold them, Tanya,” he said softly. “But I do not think any of us will see the end of this war. Those early months will be brutal
and we are going in under-prepared and unsupported. Look
at those early reports! Our allies are getting pounded. The LSF 1st Fleet is almost half gone, and they are still far from safe. And now it’s Georgiy’s turn and I am still
here, my fleet as lame as myself!”
His voice had gradually risen to a growl and he pulled himself together with difficulty.
“You never heard me say that, Lieutenant Commander,” he sighed. “Empress help me, but I need to get a grip. If I am not self assured, how can I expect to lead my sailors?”
His aide did not reply, but her presence next to him was reassuring as Kalazonitov turned his eyes toward the starmap glowing in green, yellow and ominous red and wished that he could will
his fleet to the aid of his friend.
OOC: Well, that took a bit longer than I thought. I'll probably keep those shorter from now on
Lorric, you made me laugh. Shame on you.