Cascade Station, Polaris System
Guderian stepped into the communications hub at Cascade. The nearest attendant turned to him, saw his Commodore bars, and snapped crisply to attention. "SIR!"
"Evening, sergeant. I need to open a private channel with the Admiral."
"Right away, commodore! Channel with the..."
He trailed off as his hands clacked over the keys.
"The, uh, Admiral, sir? Would you mean... Rear Admiral... Koth?"
Guderian grinned. On the inside only.
"No, sergeant, the Admiral. Admiral Aken Bosch. The reason we're all here."
"Yes, yes, SIR! Right away!"
The attendant was clearly nervous, making a number of typing mistakes and thus having to frantically redo his work as he entered the necessary command codes. Guderian stepped closer and spoke in a low voice.
"Sergeant, I know addressing the Admiral unannounced can be... risky. He is a very focused man. Needs to be, to run this endeavor. But as a Commodore and head of a line squadron, I have the right to request his attention. He can hardly court-martial me for doing so. And if he does, I'll make sure he knows you were an unwitting accomplice."
The sergeant chuckled for a second, then choked as he desperately tried to muffle it. He didn't know if laughing at a joke about Admiral Bosch was a capital offense.
"Sir... uh, SIR! The private comms chamber is open for your use! To your left, SIR! And... uh, I am required by protocol to remind you that henceforth I have no knowledge that a private communication was ever opened! If such a communication had ever occurred, SIR! I would be unable to give information about it to anyone SAVE the ADMIRAL himSELF, SIR!"
This time Guderian's grin showed.
"Thank you, sergeant. At ease. Get some sleep next break you have, you need a rest."
As the Commodore stepped into the soundproof room, the attendant started rubbing his eyes ferociously. Did I get enough sleep last night? Oh no, I probably didn't and now it shows! What would my supervisor say?!? I've gotta get some rest I probably look like a nervous wreck I gotta do better gotta stay awake on duty...
The face on the comms screen. Guderian knew that face. Chilling, perhaps, yet not evil. Inspiring, rather. Dedicated.
An impossibly focused man, enslaved to his destiny, harrowed by plots, schemes, war... and peace...
"Commodore Walther Guderian."
"Admiral Aken Bosch."
"I know that you will not waste my time, Commodore. There is much to be done..."
"Yes, Admiral. Rest assured that I have thought this through. The 5th Cruiser Squadron was on routine patrol yesterday. You can find the details in our operations log. While on site, we came across a Faustus-class science vessel. The vessel was escorted by three Myrmidon fighters. We saw no others, sir."
"Needless to say, these were not our craft?"
"Not ours, sir. GTVI, I suspect, or SOC. I say this because they had heavy sensor shielding. Both the cruiser and its attendant fighters could not be targeted. Perhaps one of the new Charybdis craft could have done so, but with these older cruisers..."
"I will speculate if I need, to Commodore. Forgive the urgency, but you do understand..."
"I return to the point, Admiral. We could not target these vessels. To fire upon them would have been quite difficult, as circumstances were. I reasoned that we should simply observe and see what we could learn. As it was, the unknown vessels jumped out after a few minutes - but not before the Faustus sent a highly dense, heavily encrypted package of data our way. A burst transmission. Not exactly labeled with our names on it, but flashed in our direction. The encryption is quite serious, as I'm sure you'll find."
Guderian slid a small data card into the console.
"I felt that the best thing to do would be to give the data to you, personally, and leave it in your hands to do what was best."
"I thank you. I believe we can make use of this... I doubt you will be further informed as to the results of this investigation, Commodore, but come what may, I do thank you. One more thing... who else knows about this?"
"The deck officers of my immediate cabinet. They knew we received a heavily encrypted transmission, and that I planned to give it to you. Also, the attendant sergeant responsible for opening the private communication; he knows only that we spoke at this time."
Bosch stared impassively at Guderian (who, it must be said, did not remain entirely calm under that gaze).
"Commodore... trust is a fragile thing. It must be nurtured, grown... once lost, trust is well nigh impossible to regain. You may believe you know someone, and yet... they can unleash Hades right before your eyes. Be wary of everyone, especially those with knowledge, power, or both. Especially knowledge. Needless to say, if such an event should occur again, you will refrain from revealing it to anyone except by the strictest necessity. Do you understand?"
The Commodore nodded. "I accept the reprimand, Admiral. I will be more discerning in the future."
"Good. I would like to say that, while the 5th is not our most active line squadron..."
Guderian laughed. Again, on the inside.
"...I have had good reports regarding your efficiency. Your men take you seriously, as they do your other captains. Well done."
The telescreen faded to grey. Guderian sighed, rubbed his eyes, and crushed the fragile data chip in his hand. He wanted nothing to do with intrigue or intelligence operations. In fact, at the moment, he wanted nothing more than to run a tight ship of the line. Serve his men and the fleet as best he could.
A mug of black coffee wouldn't hurt, either.