What Comes Before
Part X: Let the Fireworks Begin!
MP Serneyus is an old man, weakened by his age, a chronic illness, more than 1 decade in jail because he was the opposition party leader, and endless fights in the parliament.
He summoned a meeting of the highest members of the Gaitori Isolationist Party (GIP), the political wing of the Gaitori Isolationists. When they arrived, he handed out copies of a report and said simply:
When they finished reading the report, they looked at their party leader, Serneyus.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"Are you sure that this report can be trusted?" one asked.
"No, I'm not sure. Unfortunately, according to this report, we won't have the luxury to find out. If this report is right, we will be dissolved within 2 days."
"I don't know about the rest of you," said another as he stood up. "But I prefer to fight than to swallow this in silence."
The assumption of government duplicity comes easily for members of the GIP and especially for its leaders. Every single one of them were jailed, placed under house arrest, tortured, or exiled at one time or another due to their opposition to the governing party.
There was some murmuring among the participants in this meeting. Serneyus scanned the faces of his subordinates before he said:
"I agree. The question is: What can we do?"
"Maybe we can denounce them in public," one suggested.
Serneyus shook his head.
"It'll be useless. It will simply degenerate into 'we said, they said' accusations. Besides, their plan, according to this report, will be activated within 2 days. I don't know what kind of meaningful support we're going to get from the population."
"Why don't we contact Vargerus?" another suggested.
That sugestion raised an uproar.
"We spent too much time building up our credibility. We can't-"
"Vargerus is too violent and unpredictable. Who knows what he's going to do?"
"Besides, what can he do?"
The discussion continued while Serneyus listened in silence. Finally, he stretched raised his arm, bringing silence to the room.
As all eyes gathered on him, he slowly pronounced:
"I haven't heard of anything that might avert this. We might as well give Vargerus a try. After all, he is a founding member of this movement. Contact him and show him the report."
"...and we're hoping that you might come up with some ideas."
Vargerus smiled. An ugly smile indeed considering the deep scar on his chin. That was a result of a student protest during which a security officer cut his face.
As one of the founders of the Gaitori Isolationist movement, Vargerus is widely respected even though he is a figure of controversy. Unlike his older companion Serneyus, who championed non-violent tactics, Vargerus believed in the utilization of terror after his encounter with state security forces. His brutal treatment in prison further convinced him that the state will only change its ways if it is defeated. If not for men like Serneyus who always urged moderation, there will be urban warfare in all major Gaitori cities by now.
Vargerus's career is just as illustrious as Serneyus himself. After being released from prison, he emerged a changed man. He planned rallies advocating violence against the state and masterminded the bombing of several state facilities. He was declared a terrorist and for a time, was forced to flee into exile to the Cantharan Order. Despite his deep-seated hatred of all foreigners, he did grudgingly accept some support from the Cantharans.
After the GIP was formally recognized and all of its political prisoners pardoned, Vargerus returned to the Union, receiving a hero's welcome from enthusiastic supporters. Although he holds no official post in the government or in the aprty, he still maintains de facto control over the Gaitori Isolationists, the militant wing of the Gaitori Isolationist movement.
The Gaitori Isolationists were ordered by the GIP leadership to lie low, and re-focus their energies on recruiting sympathetic voters. Serneyus wishes to transform the Isolationists into a much more malleable group. However, his efforts were udnercut by Vargerus who continued to believe that political reform is impossible to succeed and only violent action will yield results.
"So, you have to come to me eventually, eh?" Vargerus can't help but be amused even under these circumstances. After all, although he was allowed to attend party meetings, his voice was repeatedly ignored and he himself is usually shunned by the hierarchy in the GIP. Now that they face a crisis they cannot solve, when the state is about to use maximum violence to dissolve the Isolationist movement, party leaders still have to resort to him.
"No problem," he stood up slowly. In recent years, he is beginning to experience pain in his legs. Now he can't even stand up too quickly without being brought down again by sharp pain. Like most of his problems, he blame it on the state.
The MP was shocked by the response.
"No problem? What do you mean 'no problem?' They're about to declare martial law!"
"Yes, you told me. Tell Serneyus and the others that the situation will be dealt with."
"Are you sure you want to know?"
The MP looked at Vargerus for a while before replying:
"You're right. I don't want to know. Good day, comrade."
"This emergency session of the Obish National Senate is in order!"
An elderly senator stood up.
"Gentleman," he said. "I believe by now, we all know the grisly details. But for the benefit of those of us who were asleep, I would repeat the events in a brief summary. Less than an hour ago, a Gaitori assassin ambushed General Kramden and four of his aides right outside his office. The general died instantly. Two other aides wounded in the attack died en route to the local hospital. The assassin was captured."
The senator scanned the room. There was not a sound heard. He continued:
"Now I have the latest report from our military service. After an extensive interrogation-"
There was some coughing in the Senate chamber. But they quickly ceased.
"...the assassin confirmed what many of us already suspected: He claimed that he was acting under orders from the Gaitori government."
The Senate chamber remained silent.
"The Ishiman ambassador had already conveyed condolences from his government. Apparently, even the Ishimans had the same suspicions. The ambassador requested that we inform them of any new developments. However, I believe that the latest development is too important to not consult the Senate first. Now that the gauntlet had been thrown, the question remains: What will be our response?"
"What about the Gaitori government?" one asked.
"Well, we all know their response. They expressed their condolences and stressed that the assassin was not acting under their orders. I must say, it was very suspicious of them to deny so emphatically."
The senators whispered to one another. For a long while, the chamber was filled with private exchanges. Eventually, a clear and loud voice asked the question that was being repeated around the chamber:
"What is the state of our military preparedness?"
"My fellow Obiards, by now, I trust all of you are awake, speculating on the latest tragedy that had fallen on us. General Kourdes Kramden had left us.
We have conclusive evidence, namely the confession of the assassin, that his action was authorized and sponsored by the Gaitori government. In light of this evidence, we cannot, in all conscience, maintain our ties with the Gaitori Union.
As of this moment, our ambassador to the Union had delivered our official declaration of war to the Gaitori government in protest of their barbaric tactics. All diplomatic and trade ties are officially terminated. In addition, we declare the Gaitori Union to be a war zone. All independent traders enter the Union at their own risk. We cannot be held responsible for any unforeseeable consequences.
My fellow countrymen, these are difficult times for us. A great man is lost, and we all mourn his passing. But I know the general. And I know that if he is still with us, he will urge us to save our tears.
A long, hard struggle lies before us. I will tell you the truth. Our enemy is well-prepared. There will be many more martyrs. Soon, many of you will start weeping for your sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters.
I am an old man. My only son serves in the military. There can be no greater tragedy for a parent to say farewell to a son.
But I also know that our cause is just. If there are gods and if they are also just, then we have already been blessed with victory.
Our enemy is a treacherous one. He seeks to weaken us by killing one of our most respected leaders, hoping to weaken us. I say, we will prove them wrong. We will transform our grief into anger. We will avenge the general's death.
I spoke of a long, hard struggle. Indeed, many of us will perish. Others of us, perhaps including myself, will not live to see its conclusion.
Tonight, while our servicemen fight to preserve the honor of Obain, let us say a prayer for them and their souls."
To: Obish National Senate
From: Ishiman People's Assembly
The Ishiman Stellar Protectorate would like to express its sincere displeasure towards Obain regarding its latest actions. Despite our request for consultation before acting, Obain acted alone. Therefore you will stand alone.
As of this moment, the Ishiman Stellar Protectorate formally severs diplomatic relations with Obain. All trade ties will also be terminated. Our assistance programs will be suspended indefinitely. Our advisers to Obain will be recalled.
The resumption of these ties lie solely on Obain. If you are willing to suspend military activities, we are willing to offer ourselves as an honest broker in talks between the Gaitori Union and Obain regarding the latest developments.
If you reject our request, we will consider taking additional measures.
We regret the termination of the long-standing friendship between our two states. We sincerely wish that we will receive a favorable answer from you soon.
Ishiman People's Assembly
"Status report?" asked a Salrilian director.
"I must say, the Obish offensive, launched precisely one second after the declaration of war was delivered, is proceeding surprisingly smoothly despite the fact that the invasion plan was put together in the last hour.
The offensive was aimed at all 4 Gaitori colonies at the border. Two hours ago, we received confirmation that the last of those coloneis have fallen. The Obiards are spearheading a drive directly towards Gaitor itself, hoping to knock them out of the war swiftly."
"Well, we certainly don't want to see that. What are the chances of them succeeding?"
"22.84%. Ishiman aid will soon be flowing to the Union. That will be enough to defend Gaitor and drag out the war."
"How long will it last?"
"At least 3 years. In addition, the Oracle Committee had just upgraded their estimate of Ishiman expenditures."
"I would think so. How much is it this time?"
"131.24 billion credits."
"We spend no money on bribery, yet so many of them are willing to do our bidding. One would imagine that they enjoy it." a Salrilian director smiled.
"Sir, the 2 Obish cruisers are still following tightly."
"45 degrees to starboard!"
The missile flew right past the Gaitori cruiser. But its 2 Obish adversaries are still trailing it.
"Sir, shields are down to 24%."
"When do we reach the carriers?"
"In another minute."
"We won't last a minute!"
"Sir, even if we reach our reinforcements, they won't be much help. They're already surrounded by Obish ships. We must-"
"Z plus 5,000 tephrams (Note: 1.092 meters) . See if we can shake them."
"Aye sir, answering Z plus 5,000 tephrams."
"Sir, they're still on our tail!"
"Obish cruiser, dead ahead!"
The Gaitori captain looked up in horror. But that horror didn't last long. A string of shots from the enemy cruiser the had just dis-engaged from stealth mode quickly tore the Gaitori cruiser to pieces.
The Obish cruiser flew right into the exploding mess of the Gaitori cruiser then emerged unscathed, protected by its shields.
"Sir, the Gaitor ship-"
"Yes I know. Set course for our destroyers."
"Status of our fleet?"
"We've successfully cut their fleet into 2. Their transports and their escort cruisers are being slaughtered. But their carriers and their escort cruisers are putting up a harsh fight. The destroyer Blumacher suffered critical damage and is withdrawing from battle. The destroyers Suzren and Okani has been disabled."
"What about enemy losses?"
The commander shook his head.
"2 enemy carriers have been disabled. 4 more destroyed. But the rest have successfullly formed a defense formation. Their missiles are beginning to take a toll on our ships."
"How many cruisers are with us?"
"Order all ships, set course directly towards the Gaitor flag ship and try to-"
"Sir, that's suicide! Half of us won't survive entering weapons range."
"We only got 2 destroyers left. I'm not going to leave the battlefield to them so they can capture our ships. Order our wing to charge directly towards their flag ship. Concentrate fire on the enemy bridge. If we can disable their command and control center, that might throw their fleet into chaos and force them to retreat."
"Aye sir, sending out orders."
"Our cruisers have confirmed, sir. We're with you."
"Set a course directly at the enemy flag ship and engage at maximum speed."
"Orders confirmed. Course laid in. We are approaching enemy flag ship."
"Sir, enemy escort cruisers are concentrating their weapons fire on us. Their cross fire is too intense."
"Order all ships, stay in formation. Open fire to scatter enemy cruisers."
"Aye sir, opening fire."
The bridge is rocked by a violent explosion.
"Direct hit. Shields are still holding."
"Sir, the cruiser Kronar was destroyed."
"Sir, target has entered weapons range."
"Order all ships, concentrate fire on target only. We will all fire at once then we'll pull up."
"Understood. Dispatching orders."
"Our ships have confirmed."
A torrent a shots rang out from the Obish cruisers. The concentration of fire was too much for the Gaitori flag ship to bear which was already damaged. When the Obish assault ships pulled up from their assault, they saw their target in flames.
"This is Captain Karveron. Admiral Berdin was killed by the Obish. I'm taking command of the fleet. All ships, stay in formation. Continue-"
"This is Captain Herrix. Disregard that order."
"Captain! I'm the senior officer here!"
"What do you wish to accomplish, captain? Half of our carriers is lost and most of our transports are destroyed. We must withdraw now and save whatever strength we have left."
"Captain, this is insubordination. I-"
"This is Captain Assambe. I'm pulling my ship out and recalling my fighters. Anyone who wishes to leave can follow me, I will take full responsibility."
"Sir, the Gaitori formation is breaking up. We did it!" exclaimed the commander.
The captain smiled.
"Continue the attack. See if we can speed up their withdrawal."
"This is a disgrace!" shouted the Ishiman adviser. "You outnumber the enemy more than 3-1 yet you still managed to lose!"
"The enemy was expecting them," countered the Gaitori commander. "You heard the reports. As soon as they came out of hyperspace, the enemy had already lined up on both sides. It was as if they knew they were coming."
"Are you accusing me of something?"
The Gaitori commander had also grown impatient.
"I don't know. Perhaps I am. How do you explain that they knew the exact coordinates that our ships will jump out to?"
"Your people has been known to talk too much when they drink or when they receive hand outs."
"I see, so you're accusing me now."
"Gentlemen," said the vice-admiral. "There's no point in arguing it here. We'll interview the officers to determine whether there was any leak of information. In the mean time, let's figure out how to proceed."
"Well," said the Ishiman adviser. "The offensive was turned into a rout and you suffered heavy losses. I recommend that your ships should evacuate your colony on Whidding Prime."
"The enemy was also seriously depleted. I think we can hold the line."
"Commander, whenever the Obiards attack, they attack in force. If you evacuate Whidding Prime now, you can be sure that the evacuation will proceed smoothly. If you do it later, the Obiards will harass your ships."
"Why don't we just evacuate the homeworld while we're at it? In fact, why don't we just give up?"
The vice-admiral realized that the meeting is quickly dissolving into chaos. Therefore before the Ishiman adviser could reply, he said:
"All right. Why don't we talk about strategy tomorrow? Let's call it a day."
"I must congratulate you on your success," said the Salrilian adviser.
"Thank you. Although we would certainly have lost if not for your information," replied the Obish admiral.
"Yes. But, to be honest, we had doubts that you could defend your colony under the circumstances. At first, we relayed the information thinking that you will evacuate your colony."
"Well, we wouldn't want to waste the valuable information that you provided us, now would we?"
The Obish admiral laughed, joined by his Obish staff. The Salrilian adviser smiled in the usually-reserved, Salrilian manner.
"Now," once the admiral recovered from his laughter, he continued:
"We must consider our next step. We inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. What is your analysis of the situation?"
"We believe that they won't begin another offensive for at least 3 more months, giving you plenty of time to begin yours."
"Yes, but we also suffered heavy losses. 3 of our destroyers will be in drydock for nearly 2 months. Besides, the Gaitori still has enough ships to defend themselves."
"Concentrated, yes. But their frontline is spread too long. I've made up a list of weaknesses that you might be able to exploit. For example, the Gaitori will be evacuating their colony in the Whidding System. That colony is too exposed and they know it. You can turn that evacuation into a disaster."
"There are many Gaitori ships in the area..."
"Yes, but your ships are more maneuverable. It will be difficult for them to engage you in a forest of their civilian ships. In addition, they won't be anticipating an attack from you so soon. Surprise will be a great advantage. If you do intend to attack the Whidding System, I recommend that you launch simultaneous raids throughout the entire frontline, diverting their attention. Let them think that you are launching an all-out assault"
"Very well, we'll definitely consider the Whidding System."
"Is there anything else?"
"Yes. Your engineers are taking a long time in the trial run of our cruisers."
"Our people are very thorough. They want to make sure that your ships will work as their crew expects it to."
"Yes, I understand the need for thoroughness. But maybe they're too thorough..."
"There is no such thing as being 'too thorough,' admiral. However, I can talk to the Military Directorate to dispatch extra engineering teams to help speed up the inspections."
"That'll be very helpful. Also, the delivery of your medical supplies is falling behind schedule."
"Yes, we regret that sincerely. Your recent offensives are causing too many casualties. I'll contact the Internal Affairs Directorate to arrange for additional supplies."
"Thank you. I think that covers it."
One can't help but wonder what your influences for writing this were (aside from Ares of course)....
I'm open to suggestions.
Note to moderators: Unfortunately, I have once again failed to stick to my own planning. "In Conclusion" is still too long. Therefore I was forced to partition it into 2 again. "In Conclusion" is now pushed back to the newly created Part XIV. Part XIII has been renamed "The Fickle Tides of War."
The good news is, I actually finished "In Conclusion." Now, all I have to do is go back and finish Part XIII which is already showing signs of overweight and might be partitioned. Uh oh...
So is there an ETA on these next parts?
ETA: varies (If I work very hard, you'll get them in 3 days. If I slack off, you'll get them in 2 weeks.)
Well, if you could get them in within 9 days, I won't have to break posting regularity. But don't strain yourself; it's been my experience that an overworked author is never at thier best, and I'd rather have the story at top quality than have it on time. Though I am getting my fill of suspense...
As I suspected, Part XIII became too long. Therefore "In Conclusion" is moved to Part XV and Part XIV was renamed "Cry Havoc!"
I am submitting Part XIII right now so you should have everything up to Part XIII. If not, please let me know.
When Part XIV is done, (Which should be in a few days. It would appear that I won't slack off after all.) it will be submitted with Part XV. (which was already done)