Turn 54 - The Smoke Filled Room

Campaign by Moonsword

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Turn 54 - The Smoke Filled Room

Postby Moonsword on Tue 20 Oct 2015 18:39

Sol, Terra, New York City
Confederation Central Office
2153 June 28


The attitude in the conference room was tense, despite the chilled carafes of ice water and the comfortable seating along the long wooden table. Of course, given the subject of the meeting, that was probably inevitable. At the head was a middle-aged woman who wore glasses - as much an affectation of style in this day and age as a supplement to vision - and a white suit. No one in the room needed an introduction to her as she surveyed the rest of the table, including the two figures displayed in the holographic display tank at the far end. An unusual bit of electronics, the very new systems were rare even among high end corporate offices and virtually unknown outside the Confederation's diplomatic service, but for the very highest level face-to-face conferences between the Terran Confederation government and the Consensus of Axanar’s embassy on humanity’s homeworld, the holo-tanks were far more convenient and direct than pressure-suited encounters had turned out to be, and without the minor risk of sudden loss-of-pressure scenarios like the one that had nearly ended the pseudo-dinosaurian ambassador's life before one of the Terran naval officers present could patch it.

The first to speak was President Vanessa Reed, the woman removing her glasses to give everyone in attendance a long, level look before finally meeting the eyes of the less colorful of the two feathered pseudo-dinosaurians in the holo-tank. “Ambassador, thank you for agreeing to meet us on short notice. Given recent events, we felt the need to discuss things directly instead of through diplomatic notes.”

The ambassador’s voice was surprisingly smooth, the product of months of practice and a flair for languages that had helped in his selection for the Consensus’s hastily organized diplomatic corps after first contact with the Terran Confederation. “That is understandable, Madam President.” Thelvar paused after a moment before continuing, “How bad were your losses? We only had the preliminary reports of the… incident.” His claws tapped the glossy surface of his desk, a slight nervous tic.

Instead of Reed, the man the next seat over answered. Dressed in a black uniform with the golden braids of an admiral at his sleeves in tailoring reminiscent of the wet navy uniforms of several of the Terran Confederation Navy’s antecedents, he leaned forward as he spoke, wisps of white hair around a bald head. “We’re still getting final loss figures. Most of the surveyors heard the warning from Hipparchus and were able to start burning for the warp point before they were ambushed. Once we accounted for them, we lost four Copernicus and one Gagarin surveyor. If they had their normal complements aboard, that’s nearly three hundred people.”

Thelvar inclined his head in one of the gestures humans and Axanarians shared, a polite nod. “And your warships? I understand there was an incursion into your Omicron Eridani system.”

Admiral Quentin Shane replied, “Two of their frigates probed into the system but one of our cruiser divisions was able to reach the warp point before they could retreat. Zanzibar was undamaged aside from a few blown circuits in her shield generators. But Corrientes was battered into an air-bleeding wreck. She’s got at least a hundred dead and scores of wounded.” After a glance to Reed and a nod in reply, Shane went on, “Zanzibar is still stationed on the warp point and Corrientes is retreating back to Cernunnos, assisted by some of the survivors from Survey Flotilla Gamma.”

In the holo-tank, the two aliens exchanged looks, and the shorter of the two, the one with the obviously artificial left arm, winced, his surprisingly expressive eyes dark. Unlike most of the people at this meeting other than Shane, he had been aboard a ship hulled repeatedly by powerful weapons and shadows danced at the back of his eyes. “I understand,” the Consensus’s naval attache said in a more halting voice after a few moments, his accent much more pronounced than Thelvar’s. “Your Navy and Survey Corps have the ACN’s condolences. Can you give us more information about what happened? The reports provided to us were very brief.”

Again, Shane glanced at his president, and again, she nodded for the Terran Confederation Navy’s uniformed commander to go ahead. “We were ambushed, plain and simple. Our survey flotilla was bushwhacked by light units and it looks like a couple of them decided to stick their noses into Omicron Eridani. It’s linked off of Epsilon through a recently discovered warp point,” he added for the benefit of Ambassador Thelvar, although his junior companion, Commander Ruen, was already nodding in acknowledgement. While the Confederation took a certain amount of care to hide its astrographic arrangement, the odds that Axanar didn’t have at least a rough idea of the strategic importance of Epsilon Eridani and its incredible collection of warp points were between slim and none by now anyway. They had to transit the system to reach Sol, a point they’d had to concede in the trade negotiations, and while the Confederation hadn’t provided a full system map, chatter was going to leak. As he spoke, a projected image of two starships was placed on the screen, with two more added for scale. For Shane, Reed, and a few of the others, the second set was familiar – the outlines of a Queensland-class heavy cruiser and the surviving ex-American frigate Constellation that the Confederation Navy had inherited. “Both of the intruders were in the same general size class as a frigate, but one of them was 15-20% larger than the other, mounting a slightly different set of electronics and an advanced point defense installation. Unlike ours, it’s based mainly on powerful counter-missiles, with some anti-missile lasers for backup, and from the data transmissions our cruisers were able to intercept and observed counter-missile performance, it looks like it’s designed for squadron coverage, not just protecting that one ship. We had already moved the Eridani Station squadron into Omicron to start containing the situation until we can move in 2nd Fleet. Commodore Mocizuchi was able to get her cruisers in between the warp point and the enemy and used that to get in close because the enemy’s ECM and counter-missiles were making her missile tubes less than completely effective.”

Ambassador Thelvar looked a bit blank but again, the naval attaché was simply nodding. “And once she was there, her force beams were able to… decisively engage them,” the commander supplied, tapping the tips of his artificial hand on the desk thoughtfully. “We had a similar experience, though…” The naval officer cut off his comment at a sharp look from the ambassador, prompting a brief glance from one of the others in the conference room at Reed, though Admiral Shane looked unsurprised. The Serpentis Incident was still mysterious and heavily classified – by both governments, if for somewhat different reasons – but whatever had happened in the outer reaches of Lambda Serpentis, the diplomatic courier in the system conducting first contact had seen multiple nuclear detonations at long range and at least one of them had looked like a fusion pile overload. Simultaneously, her Axanarian “escorts” had gone to battle stations, training weapons on the Terran ship, and things had been tense.

Instead of pressing the point, Admiral Shane just went on, “The cost was high. Their weapons are powerful, damned powerful. One hit was enough to flatline the shields on Corrientes and Zanzibar. Another blew through the armor on Corrientes. And the range on those things-!” He shook his head before going on, “Some sort of massive contained plasma warhead. We’ve never seen anything like it, can’t imagine how it powers the drive field, but it obviously works.”

“It’s powered by feedback from the plasma itself,” Commander Ruen said quietly after gathering his thoughts, drawing a curious look from several of the other attendees. “We use similar weapons but the initial energy readings your government provided us suggest these are more potent, maybe twice as powerful.” Admiral Shane’s eyes narrowed but he nodded. Instead of elaborating further, Ruen looked at Thelvar pointedly, pushing what looked like a data tablet at him, and after a long moment the ambassador let out the Axanarian equivalent of a resigned sigh and nodded. “A little over one year ago, we found something in our outer system,” Ruen started, tapping a few commands into the data tablet and causing a new set of imagery to be displayed. A rough view of a new starship was shown, different from anything Terran, Axanarian, or even these new aliens had built, and a schematic view of an Axanarian warship was displayed for scale, labeled simply "Pinnacle". Another command and a second schematic, this one of a Terran Queensland, was also displayed, approximately the same size as the Axanarian vessel - and less than half the size of the monstrous vessel pictured. “A robotic starship, heavily armed with some sort of long-range missile with a heavier warhead than what we’re given to understand your own units mount. We’ve dubbed it the ‘Slumbering Titan’ because of its apparent age and size. That age predates our own civilization considerably, and after one of our own survey corvettes stumbled over it – and was blown out of space for her trouble – it proceeded to destroy nearly a half-dozen of our frigates. The Battle Squadron was able to stop it but-“ He moved his arm, shaking his head and fingering a scar across his unfeathered muzzle, then touching a single silver star hanging from the dark gray tunic that served the Axanar Consensus Navy – like the Hierarchy’s navy before it – as a duty uniform. “-there were losses. We’re still analyzing much of the damaged, ruined hardware we recovered from it.” After a moment, the naval commander added, “We’ve also introduced an advanced type of long-range counter missile for point-defense, better than what the Titan carried, as a response to that long-range missile threat. We may be able to provide you with some insight into how theirs operates based on the description you gave me, but we don’t have anything like this ‘datalink’ defense capability.”

“So there’s something we can offer you,” President Reed said before anyone else could interject. “In addition to the information on their advanced plasma weapons. And, possibly, some other resources. Tell me something, Ambassador. The Consensus has been open to trade before. How about a technology exchange?” Several faces, human and Axanarian, snapped around to stare at her in surprise and Reed smiled thinly, waiting for an answer.
Moonsword
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Re: Turn 54 - The Smoke Filled Room

Postby thebard on Wed 21 Oct 2015 14:46

Well written and interesting . . . but I can't help feeling that the first
53 pages (months) of the story are missing (your fault for writing
month 54 so well....it leaves me wanting to read some more)
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Re: Turn 54 - The Smoke Filled Room

Postby Moonsword on Thu 22 Oct 2015 10:56

I didn't start writing until Turn 54, unfortunately. I'm going to put together a game status review that should fill in the gaps on each of the four active races and give you a better idea of what the background is.

An OOC overview of the events in Serpentis is available, though.
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