- Posted On: Nov 13 2021 3:45am
It had been a long time coming, a long time coming.
The Mon Calamari were now formally decoupled from the Eastern Province; their only remaining official overlap with the Provincial government was through the Dac Enclave on Teth. The Enclave was a slice of land and ocean – and the billion or so Mon Cal and Quarren who lived there – that through treaty was both a territory of the Dac Republic and a Special Cultural Reserve of the Teth planetary government. As Coalition citizens, residents of Teth and members of the Dac Enclave on Teth were free to travel from one to the other without restriction, hold property, seek work, and attain residence. Ultimate authority for traffic control and system security remained with the Teth government, but strong legal protections for the Enclave had been established by treaty.
Chadra had withdrawn from the East, entering the Dac Republic as a founding member. F'tral, a waterworld with its own technically apt aquatic natives, had joined the East at its induction into the Coalition, unwilling to restructure their government to meet the requirements necessary for inclusion in the Dac Council. While intensely interested in pursuing economic opportunities that Coalition membership afforded, the Iyra of F'tral thus far had shown little interest in Eastern politics, and seemed only mildly interested in the East's recent military developments.
With the departure of Mon Calamari from the East, Roche had become the most isolated Eastern world. The main body of the Contegorian Confederation lay between Roche and the East, and Roche was separated from the Cooperative worlds in and around the Quelii Sector by the ravening expanse of Reaver Space. Fortunately, relations between the Coalition and Confederation were taking a turn for the better, ensuring easy access to Roche for the time being. Despite their precarious positioning, the Verpine Technocracy's commitment to optimizing the Eastern military's Guardian was only the most recent of the major commitments to Eastern and Coalition prosperity that the natives of Roche had made. The Verpine, while perhaps the most distinct from the East's broader cultural norms, had become one of the most committed member species to Eastern development.
These days, Eastern politics and society were driven by two largely opposed interests: humanitarianism, and militarization. Teth, Chalacta, Sneeve, Delaya, Fwillsving, Bimmisaari, and Kegan had organized themselves around the former, creating or expanding the Coalition's two most powerful civilian government institutions: the Coalition Refugee and Evacuation Service, and the Coalition Resettlement and Reintegration Service. Together, these worlds and institutions had formed a refugee relief network only rivaled by the most successful organizations in the Old Republic's history.
Roche, Kubindi, and Tammar were the main drivers of the East's military interests, but Teth had invested considerably in system defense in the wake of the Dragon War, and F'tral's new status as home to a set of Mon Calamari Shipyards had triggered a significant shift in its manufacturing industry toward military production. Refugees were clamoring by the tens of millions to join the Provincial military and fight the Reaver scourge, but only recently had any comprehensible strategy to defeat the Reavers begun to take shape. Political will to divert resources from refugee relief and toward guns and warships had been lacking until now, where it might be those very refugees who change the calculus and trigger a major militarization campaign.
Of special interest, however, were the places where these two interests overlapped. Kubindi was shipping thousands of freighters worth of high-protein insect-derived foodstuffs to refugee worlds, the Verpine of Roche were continuing to help refine data management schemes to optimize refugee resettlement and job placement, and Admiral Panacka was contributing a good deal of his time and effort to the establishment of a dedicated Coalition security force to patrol the Trans-Rim Trade Route. The Coalition-controlled hyperspace route connected new refugee worlds out West to the Eastern worlds still being flooded by refugees from Reaver Space. Even the most militaristic elements in the East had a vested interest in safeguarding the Coalition's growing refugee population, and that had not been lost on those very refugees. Soon, the East's peculiar blend of “compassionate militants” might just be positioned to decide the fate of the East, and by extension, the whole of the Coalition . . .
* * *
Admiral Panacka ran his hand down the underside of the starfighter fuselage, admiring the gleam of the factory-fresh paint job. “It's a beauty, alright.” He glanced back at his tour guide, the young Colonial officer sporting a Galactic Technologies insignia. If Panacka hadn't known better, he would have sworn the little punk had come straight out of an Imperial cloning vat, complete with short-cropped hair, medium-muscular build, and a stiff upper lip.
The officer tensed, doing a poor job of suppressing a frown. “The HF-10 HyperFighter is the finest starfighter produced in the Coalition. It's armament, speed, maneuverability, survivability, range, pilot comfort -”
“Pilot comfort, even?” Panacka interrupted, cracking a wry smile as he stepped away and regarded his tour companion.
Taima Tolen, Deputy Commissioner of the Resettlement Service, smiled back, the tiny, near-human Bimm winking at Panacka.
“As I said,” the officer reiterated stiffly, “the finest fighter in the Coalition, and unfortunately for you, it is off limits to the East.”
“Well,” Panacka dragged out the word, making a show of looking around the Colonial hangar, “what a shame.” The rest of the launch bay was taken up by full squadrons of a mix of Colonial and Eastern starfighters, all being prepared for the upcoming joint-action demonstration. Returning his attention to the Colonial, Panacka shrugged and said, “At least now we don't have to figure out how to pay for them.”
“Indeed,” the Deputy Commissioner said. “Bimmisaari was not likely to approve new military expenditures anyway.”
Panacka nodded, walking over to the woman. “It would have taken a full vote in Parliament to secure the funds; not likely in these . . . transitional times.” The two of them turned in unison toward the Colonial, putting on their best sad faces and trying to look solemn.
He didn't catch on. “GT has a solution,” he said.
“You don't say?” Panacka gaped, dripping with mock surprise.
The Colonial still wasn't getting it.
“Glory be!” Taima shouted, so over the top that Panacka was worried the old lady was going to strain something.
“The Colonial government recognizes the security value that the HyperFighter would provide to the Trans-Rim Trade Route,” he began, stiff and unappealing as ever, “and as such, we would like to help you secure permission from the Contegorian Confederation to begin purchasing and utilizing HyperFighters in the Trans-Rim Defense Fleet.”
“Well I'll be . . .” Panacka said, walking over to the Colonial and putting a hand on his shoulder, squeezing hard. “You know,” he continued, pretending to ignore the grimace on the young man's face, “when I first heard you Colonials wanted to come out and make a pitch face-to-face, I thought . . .” he stepped aside a little, giving Taima a good look at the young Colonial's discomfort, but not letting go of the man's shoulder. “I thought: now what could they have to offer me? I mean, the East pitched in on funding for the Trans-Rim fleet, sure, but those Colonial designs we're using are mostly being built at Narg, Teth, hell . . . even Amorris all the way up in the Quelii Sector. All you've got to offer us, the only thing that you make yourselves anymore, is this . . . uh, pretty . . .” he waved a hand vaguely at the Hyperfighter, “. . . starship.”
“Admiral,” he grunted, finally jerking his shoulder free of the man's grasp and taking a step away. “I can assure you that the design of the Hyperfighter -”
“Yeah I don't care,” Panacka cut him off, glancing over to Taima and returning her earlier wink. “Look, here it is.” Returning his attention to the Colonial, he got serious for a moment. “It's a fine ship, it is. It's custom built for hyperlane security, and it does that quite well. And yeah: it's packed full of Confederation technology and materials that you aren't allowed to sell or deploy outside of their agreed upon usage . . . whatever.
“The point is that the Confederation has been drooling all over themselves for the chance to get their merchant fleets into the markets out West, and they can't do that without a safe Trans-Rim route. So here's the deal: you tell them that if they free the HyperFighter for use in the Trans-Rim Defense Fleet and donate all exclusively Confederation materials to the cause, then we will fill the space between the Eastern and Western Provinces with HyperFighters, no extra charge.”
The Colonial stumbled for a moment, clearly not well suited for this kind of exchange. “That's a . . . tremendously unfair arrangement. The Confederation -”
“You're telling me!” Panacka exclaimed. “That kind of commitment would blow a hole straight through the Eastern budget.” He glanced back at Taima Tolen.
“Indeed,” the Bimm woman agreed, “but I'm sure our friends out West and even down South would be more than willing to share the financial burden.”
“You see?” Panacka said, turning back to the Colonial. “We all pitch in, we all benefit.” He slapped the man on the shoulder, harder than he should have. “This is the Coalition: that's how we do it.”
* * *
Tammar had a single, small, unassuming moon. Occasionally, it provided some use for the planet's military academy, as a reasonably static object on which to set up target dummies, or as a celestial body with just enough gravity to demonstrate basic principles of orbital mechanics. Usually, though, it was just there, just . . . there.
That would no longer be the case. Since Captain Orion and General Decurra had struck up their deal with Admiral Panacka, a detachment of Kubindi army engineers had been preparing a nice little planet-facing stretch of Tammar's tidally-locked moon. Now, finally, the pair of deepdocks that Panacka had secured from the Ugor had arrived, and while one of them would be deployed to a deep-space holding area with an escort provided by Tammar's secret fleet of warships, the other was going to be very carefully parked into a Kubaz-made hole in the face of the moon.
The deepdock was being fit with a repulsorlift cradle that would allow it to be eased gently into its new home, and also removed with haste if ever needed. A number of heavy-duty tractor beam projectors had also been set up around the perimeter of the deepdock's new home, and would be used to move ships safely in and out of the deepdock's several drydocks without any trouble from the moon's gravity.
It was the solution that Tammar needed to keep its secret fleet of warships maintained and stocked. The combination of a system-wide interdiction network and an array of long-range sensor scramblers deployed around Tammar and its moon would mask the presence of individual ships, but the deepdock needed a more substantial camouflage if it was going to avoid detection. The lunar surface coupled with the sensor scramblers would do just that.
But there was more. Panacka and Decurra weren't convinced that Tammar's naval power would be sufficient for the Kubindi-derived army she was building on the planet. If Tammar was going to realize its full potential as a base of Eastern military power, then it would need more ships, and there was nowhere left in the East to get them. Fortunately for everyone, the East was far from the totality of the Coalition.
The Dominator-class Heavy Battle Cruiser Evermore exceeded the limits of Tammar's sensor scrambling network. With properly sensitive equipment, a scout ship on the edge of the system might even be able to acquire a class identification from the signature of the twenty-five hundred meter warship, by the simple fact that no other Coalition vessels matched its size and profile closely enough. That wasn't of particular concern to Captain Orion or General Decurra, though: the ship wouldn't be here for long.
“Permission to come aboard?”
The Ryn woman in the Cooperative Defense Force uniform took a moment to size up the mismatched pair, the squat Tammarian with his bulging air sacks and the towering Kubaz in her head-to-toe commando armor. “Alright then,” she said, waving them forward.
The pair stepped from the access ramp of their shuttle onto the deck of the Dominator, Orion smiling despite the circumstances. “Congratulations on your new command. You know, I once -” Decurra slapped his upper arm, silencing him immediately. “I mean, of course: I'm sorry for your loss.” He became much more somber, forgetting his own former command as he remembered the reason for the Ryn woman's transfer to this ship.
“What do you want?” she asked coldly. “What am I here for?”
“Colonel Ellen,” Decurra began, taking a step forward and placing a hand on Orion's shoulder to indicate he should stay where he was. “We are enacting a plan on Tammar that will greatly bolster the East's ability to strike, without forewarning, at threats to the East, but we are in need of additional naval assets and troop transport capacity.”
“Can't help you there,” Ellen said, seeming disinterested. “I'm not part of the East.”
“That's exactly why -”
Decurra silenced Orion by holding her hand up in front of his face. “We know,” she said, calmly, not taking her attention from the Ryn commander. “We also know that this ship alone represents the most substantial contribution that the Ryn Fleet has made to the Coalition's anti-piracy efforts to date, and that this ship is not alone. We also know that a Dominator is far too much warship for hunting fringe pirates. You aren't going after simple convoy raiders are you, Colonel Ellen?”
There was a long moment of silence in which neither of the two could get a good read on the Ryn colonel's disposition. Finally, she answered: “We're going to kill Jarvis Ragnar.”
Orion spoke up again, and this time Decurra let him. “It's going to be hard to maintain firing arcs on those light frigates he so loves to use. I should know, I used to – ouch!” Decurra slapped his arm again, this time harder.
“He's been recruiting larger warships from the Alliance,” Ellen said, tone still even, hard, clinical. “And besides, Evermore isn't for his ships.”
“We could help,” Decurra offered. “Tammar's navy is larger than you would expect, and is heavily composed of Second Wave fast attack ships. Together, we could form a powerful force.”
“We aren't an Eastern operation,” she reminded them.
“That's exactly why – would you stop that!” Orion shouted at Decurra, blocking her slap with his hands and then sidestepping until he was out of her range. Returning his attention to Ellen, he continued. “That's exactly why we need you. With support from outside of the East, we can ensure the clandestine obligations of our operation here. And with our help, you can bring to bear overwhelming firepower against your targets.”
“Target,” she said stiffly. “There's just one target.”
“For now,” Decurra said. “The more powerful the Ryn Fleet grows, the more enemies it will cultivate.”
“They're not my concern.”
“They will be,” Orion said, “when the people who gave you this command decide its time for you to repay your debt to them.” He glanced over to Decurra, and decided to move closer to the group when she nodded in agreement with his observation.
“Assuming I'm buying your pitch,” she began, guarded, “how would this work?”
Surprised he hadn't started going yet, Decurra looked over to Orion only to see him staring back, waiting for her to answer. “With Ryn help, we can establish a second transponder profile for the entire Tammar Home Guard, making them appear as forces of the Ryn Fleet. We'll simultaneously be hiding our true origin and inflating the presence of the Ryn military in the galactic eye.”
“And in exchange, you'll call on us when you need our firepower?”
“Possibly,” Decurra acknowledged, “but our more pressing need is for logistical support, and covert supply lines. The system's interdictor all but cuts us off from the East. It conceals our actions, but it also drastically limits our prospects for future growth. We need a partner who can help us keep the fleet running in the long term, and secure new sources of support going forward.”
“Okay, I can see it. It's a decent plan. Is there more?”
“Yes,” Orion said, eliciting surprise and concern from Decurra. “But you don't get to hear about it. Not yet, anyway.”
“Trust is earned, Colonel,” Decurra said. “How about your people and ours earn some trust between one another?”