Klingseis Chapter Eight
“…your people can not afford complacency on any front. Not even amongst your allies. The Ralgoth threat is now greater than ever.”
The alien diplomat sits with an uncannily disciplined posture. His hands are placed lightly on the table, fingers spread wide, treating the surface as if it were a holy artifact. His breathing has slowed, yet is still much faster than anyone else in the room. Commander Prendable stands behind the Hycain, arms folded. Across from me, Briggs has adopted a glass-eyed stare, mimicking normal facial movements. I’m assuming the intent is to display an appearance of concentration, but I’m sure he has found a way to sleep with his eyes open. Darden sits next to me, and also appears to be preoccupied. If I were to guess, she is currently deciding how she would kill every person in this room. Only Hale and Richards have been giving much attention to the ambassador’s rhetoric.
“Ambassador, according to our intelligence, there hasn’t been a skirmish between the Ralgoths and your people in this area of space in quite a while. Save the Commander, most humans haven’t even seen a Ralgoth up close. And humanity is in no position to go on the offensive. We’re still suffering the hangover of our own conflict.”
I’m surprised to hear an informed statement coming from Hale. The fat idiot actually has a valid point to make. Ensign Richards straightens up and begins to squirm, preparing to release what I expect to be a counterargument.
“I must disagree with the Major.” Richards interjects, his eyebrows furrowed so intensely they cause a layer of folds to become pronounced on his forehead. “I’m sure many of our officers enjoy sitting comfortably in their offices, fearfully praying that the Ralgoths won’t attack us, but we know this war is inevitable. It’s time for us to accept that, and prepare our people accordingly.”
Damn. Did the comm officer just publicly call our head Marine a coward? Richards is a good guy, and a great officer, but sometimes he doesn’t know when to shut up.
The shock on Hale’s face is wonderful.
“Ambassador, perhaps we could move on to the reason for your visit.”
Leave it to the Prendable to break up the fun. Hair-pulling and face-scratching in front of the Hycain ambassador might not paint humanity in the best light, but it would easily be the highlight of my week.
Hale and Richards are the perfect representation of the two factions that have chiseled a rift in our society. One camp believes it is our moral obligation to come to the aid of our allies, fighting alongside the Hycains against an enemy who might very well come for us next. Most of the military agrees with the Ensign, that our presence in this fight is overdue. The opposing faction is largely comprised of pacifists, scholars, and isolationists. They feel that only prolonged peace can allow us time to rebuild our society.
My opinion seems to be on an endless rotation. The Hycains were instrumental in the reconstruction of our new government after what the historians are calling the “The War for the Wormhole.” I was still in diapers when the conflict reached a climax. My mother used to tell me how awful things had gotten, how the separation from Earth left our government in chaos. Our central economy, which would have taken a century to revitalize without support from Earth, was restored in two years thanks to the novel technology and tourism provided by the Hycains. Hell, even The Ironsides is a gift from them. Should we really be so reluctant to come to their aid now that they are so desperate for our help?
Of course, we learned after the fact, that the Hycains’ philanthropy wasn’t exactly selfless. They were in the midst of their own fight with the Ralgoths, a war that had apparently been raging for thousands of years. The partnership with the Hycains propelled us from the smoldering remains of a hot war to a much more dangerous cold one. As of yet, the Ralgoths have chosen not to antagonize the UPE. They know the smallest sign of aggression could bring us into the conflict. Jumping to the aid of our allies might seem the honorable move, but it could very well cost the lives of millions of human soldiers. My pilots, the men and women I have lived with, trained with, and people I consider family, would be on the front line.
As the ambassador finishes up explaining the importance of maintaining vigilance in the fleet, Commander Prendable seamlessly takes over the briefing and explains the purpose of the impromptu war games to begin sometime tomorrow.
“…the objective is to neutralize a Palarys Class Hycain frigate with a modified hull and appearance to mimic a Ralgoth attack force. Due to the nature of the war game, the ship, of course, will not be broadcasting Hycain ID codes. As we all know, the Ralgoth Clans tend to attack with a single large vessel. Once within a certain range, they accelerate and put themselves on a trajectory that allows them to ram their enemy mid-ship. This allows them to use their physical size to defeat anyone aboard. This has proven effective for them in the past.” The Commander pauses momentarily, seemingly lost in a memory before he continues. “Their ships have little in the way of offensive weapons, but can withstand tremendous amounts of damage. Their turrets never attack enemy capital ships directly, they merely act as further defense against the Hycain drones. I expect Laramie Squadron to put on such a show that the ambassador immediately recommends a halt to the drone program and puts bodies back in their planes.” I stiffen up just a little at his mention of one of my squadrons, but he continues on without giving any indication he noticed.
“The Ironsides has been outfitted with our latest prototype tachyon guns. I know you all have seen their effectiveness against space debris, but this will be the first test against an actual enemy ship. The desired effect is to tear this frigate apart at the atomic level. After the first ship is neutralized, the crews of the Ironsides and Portway Station will be informed of the nature of the simulation so as to not incite panic during the next phase. Four Hycain ships will jump into the system in a tiered fashion to engage in a mock boarding of this ship and the station.
Prendable pauses to allow a few seconds to look everyone in the eye.
“Now, I understand that none of you were informed of these games until today. It would not have been a proper test otherwise. I wanted to see the standing readiness of the Ironsides and her crew. I know you’re all prepared, we have been training for this for years. Trust each other, because I trust you.
Now, I’d like an update on the status of each of your divisions at the end of the briefing. I have already spoken with the head of engineering, Senior Chief Yogusashi. I did not ask that he be here, as his absence would be noted and normal ship operations must still go on during this meeting. Let’s begin with a detailed walk through of what is to come.”
“Commander, may I say something?” Hale interrupts.
“Go ahead, Major.”
“I understand the need to have our people prepared for all contingencies. But if the Ralgoths ever find out about our little exercise with the Hycains, they won’t take it as a sign of our good intentions.”
“I’m sure they won’t, Major.” Prendable answers simply.