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Canon Index




 Tales of the Black Admiral

The Best of Times Call for Desperate Measures
“Do you know what they told me?” 

Cyarkos Rhulson’s voice carried through Amphi-3, somehow filling the space in spite of its naturally introspective tone. Nazyless estimated that perhaps 100 people were assembled here. Based on their dress and the various looks of confused discomfort, he estimated that about half were civilian guests invited by Rhulson to participate in the simulation, as he himself had been. The other half were their Proximate Guard counterparts, matched up to keep watch on them. Nazyless’ own Proximate shadow sat next to him now, having patiently rebuffed two days of his insistent questions and speculation. If Aspirant Khatijah knew anything about Rhulson’s plans, she wasn’t saying. She met his excited grin with a professional glare. 

“They told me, ’You’ll never make Admiral with an attitude like that.’ “ Rhulson paused for effect before continuing. “It’s about climbing the ranks, you know. It’s about building a bigger pension; earning a better commission for your son or your niece. It’s about throwing your destroyer around like a child with a toy in the hopes of doing something that’ll make the simcasts and get you on the next big Council.”  

Rhulson paced the stage area methodically as he spoke. Nazyless had noticed that the Group Captain was never really still, though he somehow never appeared nervous or busy, either. It was as if his thoughts were always moving so quickly that his body felt the need to do things just so it wouldn’t get left behind. Rhulson stopped briefly, making eye contact with those in the audience as he spoke.  

“The military, of course, should be used for the public good. It should be a sacrifice and a service. It should be a tool that is used and honed, a sharpened blade for protection and exploration. The Bjaki Federation is rusty and dull. I think I’ve displayed adequately that the Aegis is useless. It can be manipulated and exploited. It is soft and unused. The children of powerful families walk the halls of warships like they were vacation retreats. The fleet stays close to home and family while the colonies are left defended by supply ships.” 

He paused in his speaking and resumed his casual pacing. In many ways he was an unremarkable man with a slight paunch and thinning brown hair shaved and stubbly. His posture lacked the proud stiffness of the commanders of lineage. No one ever commented on the squintiness of his eyes, however, as they carried an irrepressibly focused authority. No one in that room could deny the passion or surety in that gravelly voice.  

“Neighbours,” he said as if reading a title. 

 “The Core Commonwealth is our friend. Goods and technologies move freely between us, yet they are a more aggressive economic and exploratory force. They do not conquer or even threaten our settled worlds, yet they settle the worlds on our very doorstep and exploit the resources nearest us that we should be taking. Their action is a fine counterpoint to the inactivity of the Federation. You can see how quickly they grow in comparison. They are hungry to explore and conquer, while the Federation is content to form Councils, cast votes, and under-develop a few unprotected fringe worlds.” 

“The Ptatl are essentially remote, neutral, and involved in building relations with the Commonwealth. Their social fabric is extremely competitive, however, and their trade with the Commonwealth may leave them in a hungrier position than we can, at the present, imagine.” 

As a military writer, Nazyless had heard many of Cyarkos Rhulson’s orations before. He had been pushing this sort of speech on various Federation Councils and Assemblies for several years, attempting to spur them to initiate reforms and use the Aegis to expand and protect the Federation. Rhulson’s political evaluations were always keen and his plans, frankly, made a lot of sense as far as Nazyless was concerned. Nazyless could also be sure that Rhulson’s insight was being wasted on dead ears at home. The Federation ran on an old, well-entrenched system of tradition and nepotism. It would not be easily swayed by mere logic. 

“And the Makkuth are nothing short of the greatest threat the races of the Bjaki Federation have ever seen. Before the Federation even formed, both Humans and Bjaki clashed with the Makkuth. They’ve never done any real damage to our settlements but it’s only a matter of time before the next raids begin. We are all painfully aware of how little we actually know about them or their civilization. They swarm like bugs for years, then disappear just as quickly. The invasion we just simulated, or something far worse, could be a few years or mere days away. The Federation is convinced that leaving the Makkuth alone is the route to peace. They are not interested in understanding the enemy or the reason for their hostilities. They are content to leave themselves ignorant and unprepared.” 

Rhulson stopped for another of his casual pauses, meeting eyes throughout the audience. It was hard to tell what sort of conclusions he was drawing behind those squinting eyes, his stoic confidence unbroken and unreadable. His appraisal of the crowd complete, he drew a breath and was off on a different course. 

“I’ll spare all you the rest of my usual discourse. You all know my views and, to some degree, sympathize with them. That is why you were given the opportunity to join us on this little expedition.” 

“We’ll come back to this little voyage we’re on, though. I’d like to make a few comments about the simulation first, if I may.” He scratched at the side of his mouth absently, thoughtfully, as he looked around the audience as if sincerely seeking objections before continuing. The audience remained quiet and intent. 

“You were invited aboard the Sophia and promised two demonstrations that the Bjaki Aegis is completely ineffective. This, I have delivered.” He resumed pacing, hands casually held behind his back now. His concentration intent and his voice almost absently mirroring the thoughts in his head, it almost seemed that he was talking out loud to himself. 

“The first demonstration was that Aegis tactics are ineffective, in general, and specifically useless against a reasonably sized Makkuth invasion force. I attempted to display that a focused, combined arms assault on a haphazardly defended colony world would end in disaster for the Federation. Even under the auspices of a remarkable commander...” he briefly paused and indicated his own person with a flourish, flashing his quirky smile to the audience before continuing.  

“...the Aegis is limited by a lack of discipline on the bottom and a lack of initiative at the top. Command, frankly, is given to the inept. And those who actually wish to respond to the situation around them are hampered by poor equipment, incapable subordinates, and restrictive protocols. The Bjaki Aegis is simply unable to adapt to surprises or the changing conditions of combat.”

 “You may think we skipped the second demonstration when we left so hastily. To the contrary, that was the second demonstration. The second demonstration was that the Federation is populated by fools and can be completely and utterly manipulated by anyone who knows it well. I have managed to gather three of the most powerful ships in the Aegis, stock them with full combat provisions, and populate them with a hand-picked crew and many of the greatest minds in the Federation. All to fulfill a personal agenda. As far as the Bjaki Federation is concerned, they allowed a relatively minor commander to manipulate all these resources and people into place, only to reiterate the same points that have been made for the last five years. The truth, however, is that my agenda was to steal these ships. And, in fact, I have.” He stopped and gazed around his audience. Then he grinned. “Pretty good, huh?” 

There were sparse, surprised chuckles throughout the audience. Nazyless grinned at his young Proximate bodyguard, who couldn’t help returning a bit of a smile. He liked the oddly charismatic Group Captain and his rambling revelations and was glad that Khatijah could share his enthusiasm. She wasn’t the classic lithe Bjaki, this Aspirant Khatijah, her jaw strong and her nose slightly large and convex. Her face had the typical Bjaki length and her cheeks were sharp enough but her body was thicker and her movements less elegant. There almost seemed to be some Human somewhere in her bloodline. In the time she had spent as his escort, he had become familiar with her cold determination and her need to perform her assigned tasks exceptionally. He could admire her dedication to the military lifestyle but thought she needed to work on her personality a bit before it was totally lost behind that stoic facade.  

“I guess there’s no point in going on about the “why” of it all. You’ve all been invited here because you’ve expressed views similar to mine and, not coincidentally, to those of every crew member on board these three ships. The Federation is weak. It needs to expand and explore and learn to protect itself. The universe is a dangerous place and we need to reach out and take control of it before it reaches out and takes control of us.” 

Nazyless smiled to himself this time. The Group Captain was a bit paranoid. While he never lingered on it, this issue of needing to conquer the hostile universe always seemed to creep into his arguments. Deep down, Rhulson’s opinion probably had some real merit but it never failed to amuse Nazyless the way it rang from this unshakable, logical commander of men. Nazyless was sure that it, in no small part, went towards undermining Rhulson’s credibility with the Bjaki political types who continued to ignore his initiatives. 

“Those of you who are expecting us to turn about and return to Balinino to embarrass the Aegis and Federation politicians can change your thinking right now. This is the real thing. We have commandeered these ships and will be undergoing a voyage which will take us well away from the Bjaki Federation and the rest of the civilized galaxy. We will be establishing a self-sufficient colony and, eventually, an empire of our own.” 

A buzz ran among the civilians in the amphitheater. Even Nazyless couldn’t help but be a bit surprised. The Group Captain’s seemingly audacious plans had just become outright madness. It was Aspirant Khatijah’s turn to smile at him, a knowing and not unfriendly smile, amused at the extent of his surprise. Nazyless could almost hear the click in his head as pieces fell into place. He suddenly knew three things without question. 

First, the entire crew was in on this. The entire population of all three ships: four watches per ships of first-rate commanders and pilots, cooks and technicians, medics and stores persons. The number of professional Aegis crew that had volunteered for an audacious plan like this was staggering… let alone the logistics to arrange, organize, and keep the entire operation a secret. Nazyless was impressed. 

Second, the Group Captain and everyone involved in this scheme were insane and headed off to die on some remote planet, if they made it that far. 

Third, Nazyless was absolutely going to be with them. Heart still pounding slightly from the announcement, he smiled widely back at Khatijah. 

Cyarkos Rhulson waited patiently for the snatches of conversation to die down before continuing. From the extensive document in his head, he read his next subtitle, “Here’s where we’re at.”

 “We have commandeered the Lady Sophia, a Vigilant II class, next-generation Command Carrier. She is packed with the latest logistical, communication, and situational equipment. She carries three full flights of fighters, one full flight of assault bombers, and a wide variety of utility craft. The Lady Sophia will be the command ship of our little fleet. There could not be a more flexible and practical ship for the task.” He paused and gave another of his dark little smiles. “I have seen to that.” 

“We have commandeered the Sculpture, a Punchdagger class, next generation Arsenal Ship. Her Behemoth railguns are two of the most advanced and devastating weapons ever devised and mounted on a starship. She is outfitted with a large variety of ship-killer missiles and defensive energy weapons. Her grav drives are stunningly efficient and severely oversized for a ship of her tonnage. Her sensing and detection equipment are exceptional, supplementing those of the Sophia. The Sculpture is designed to quickly and efficiently dispatch ships many times her own size and will provide the protection we may need on this outrageous expedition of mine. She is commanded by the unequalled Captain Bakhir Nawra.” 

Nazyless knew of Captain Nawra, an exception in many rights. A quick, practical thinker and incredible strategist for any race, Nawra was a Balithrim. The Balithrim were a hulking, hairy race with a brutish reputation. They evolved symbiotically on Memphix as the sister race of the Iliene where, traditionally, the Iliene did the thinking and the Balithrim did the lifting. From Nazyless’ experience they weren’t dumb, just disinterested in politics and professional decision making. Captain Nawra had smashed a lot of conventions and stepped on a few Bjaki toes on his way to captaining the Sculpture. Whether his decision to join Rhulson’s expedition made him more or less smart, it certainly made him that much more remarkable in Rhulson’s mind.  

“Finally, we have commandeered the Extrigent, a Memphix class Troop Transport and Assault Ship. She’s old and she’s ugly but she’s one of the most rugged and versatile ships ever designed to insert troops and cargo into hostile environments. She is stuffed to the doors with weapons, equipment, supplies, and extremely loyal Proximate troops. She is commanded by Commander Tarine Siran, one of the most able and underappreciated command personnel in the Aegis. You can thank her for much of the planning and execution that went into creating this little fleet of ours.” 

Nazyless had no doubt of that. Siran was another exceptional thinker and had long been at the right hand of Rhulson in his attempts to initiate change in the Federation. She had a solid metal core, that one. Her parents were explorers and, as a brilliant young Iliene, she had been expected to follow their scientific pursuit, not to run off and become a Proximate Trooper. She had been told, in no uncertain terms, that she was too fragile for ground combat duty, more suited to running the grav drive of a starship or crunching numbers for the Federation Trade Council. But she had weathered and excelled at every test they had presented her with, pushing her way up through the ranks of the Aegis Proximate. Along the way, she had pushed just about every button that could be pushed on the old-school Bjaki and, as a result, still held the position of Commander when those of privileged birth had been promoted past her. Nazyless himself had written an article about the injustice done to this brilliant Commander but, not surprisingly, it had seen little success in official channels of publication. 

“We have taken the finest hand-picked ships, commanders, and crew from the Bjaki Aegis. We do not foresee survivability as an issue on this voyage. We have supplies, equipment, and provisions. Once we reach a hospitable planet, we have the essentials to make it our own.” 

“And that brings us to you folks. I hope you will not be modest in appraising yourselves as some of the finest minds in the Bjaki Federation. In the past, at least to some degree, you have publicly supported my opinions or actions or at least professed similar ideas regarding the ineffectiveness of the Federation. If you are willing, you are to be the architects and mathematicians, physicists, strategists, physicians, and artists that will enable us to build a better new civilization in a better new place. I will not comment on the maneuvering it took to justify bringing you all onboard for the simulation but it does again show,” he said with a grand, open-armed gesture, “the ridiculous things that are possible within a ridiculous system.”   

There were a few chuckles and mumbles from the audience. There were various looks of concern, bewilderment, and excitement. 

“Together we have the opportunity to build a society with strength and structure that will not fail in the face of adversity, nor wallow in complacency when times are good. We can build a society that will grow and explore. It will reward those with talent by fostering that talent. The strong shall protect, the curious will explore, the intelligent will devise and develop. Everyone will fit where they fit and not where they are placed by a centuries-old hierarchy hobbled by the directives of the lame and inbred.”   

“These ships and these crews will take you to a new world. There, together, we have the opportunity to build this new society. I understand that some of you will have garnered some reservations during my speech. This is a lot to absorb in a short time. Personalized briefings will be conducted with all of you but, for the moment, let me assure you that you are under no obligation to continue on from here. We will be making a brief stop in three days time at which point we will publicly broadcast our succession from the Federation and announce our formation of an independent government. We will safely drop those of you who don’t wish to continue and we will inform the Federation that you were, in fact, abducted against your will. You will survive in relative comfort until Federation forces can pick you up. You can resume your normal life and have an outrageous tale to tell. I hope, however, that you will all join us and live a historic adventure.” 

“In a short time, we – all of us – will be establishing the Councils that will form a provisional government. Our current military structure will remain in effect, for the time being, and is to be absolute. I hope that’s something you can understand and live with. Until we have cleared Federation space and, realistically, while we are confined on these ships it will be necessary to maintain a secure chain of command that is solely privy to the specifics of our long term mission plans. In addition, those of us who are, or rather were, members of the Aegis are the only ones capable of running our little fleet as a fleet. For security reasons, outgoing transmissions have been locked down and details of our agenda will be revealed only when it is safe to do so. I apologize for the rigidity of things but it’s necessary since this is still effectively a military operation at this point. I assure that we’re not out to build a regime.” 

“Ultimately, there will be a Governmental Assembly, which will take over the administration and decision making for our new colony and guide us into whatever shape we eventually take. I would ask you all, for the moment, to take some time and consider such issues as what is important in a Constitution, what government offices may be necessary now and in the future, and the method we will use to choose the leaders that will carry us into the future. What are our short term and long term aspirations, not as a group of pirates and fugitives but as a fledgling nation? Once we have completed our provisioning stops and are on the final leg of our journey, we will establish the Governmental Assembly en route. It will be a new government, created and populated by us. Together, we build the future.”


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