December 8th 2233
The Great Leader's Chambers
The normally unflappable Castor Ohirides was running around the Great Chambers like a man possessed,
'Master we have no less than three audiences to get out of the way before you are due to broadcast to all the Colonies! Please bring your meditation to an end I implore you!'
'Calmness my son-all will be well-the mechanics will slot into place 'ere the night is done...' Came the infuriating response.
The devotion that the young apprentice felt for his Daskalos was not in doubt but there were times, like now, when their normally even-tempered relationship was somewhat stretched. This was not least because the young man, who had recently celebrated his formal accession to manhood, was now widely respected amongst the politicians and military men of The Exiles and had become something of a player in the corridors of power. When there was a deal to be struck, Zeus despatched his young factotum, when arms needed twisting or words of warning issued, Castor was the man for the job.
Tonight's tension was more down to the fact that he had arranged for three of the key people in the political set up to have vital meetings with his master before the all-important State of the Colonies Address that was to formally announce the capture of the Torian planet, Leto IV, deep in the heart of their South East systems and one that had been snatched in a straight race with their so called ‘Drengin friends’. Castor had warned more than a year ago that despite the fact that this warlike race were technically in an informal league with them and had even lent ships and materiel to their cause-he had a feeling that this was a weapon with two edges and one that was apt to come back and strike them before very long.
He had been proved correct early this year when the ISA reported that some of their Intelligence assets reported that the Drengin were gaining the upper hand in their own ferocious war against the green foe. The evidence of this became all too clear when two Torian worlds deep in their own southernmost systems were attacked and colonised leaving a strong Drengin presence right in the middle of their own sphere of influence.
The situation was grave and hung on a knife edge: there were plenty of Torian systems in their southern and south-eastern systems that were now ripe for plucking as more and more of their Titan Class Destroyer Battlegroups came online and committed themselves to the frontlines.
The youngster had smiled proudly to himself as he recalled conveying Dr Zeus's wishes for prosecution of this naval war across their frontlines and when asked by the oft-cautious Strategos Milites how he wanted to proceed in the sectors that were mixed in with the Torians he had been told curtly 'With extreme prejudice!'
These were orders that commanders such as Hipparchus Christos Sec and newly commissioned and promoted Tetrarch Pollux Ohirides had not been slow to execute and operating with maximum autonomy and a great deal of initiative they had taken the war to the Torians right across the front. It had been something of a wrench, he knew, for his twin to be separated from his friend by some distance as his command had been despatched to take control of their western flank whilst Sec’s Battlegroup was despatched to their extreme south-eastern one: he had heard that their parting had been emotional but, as he kept reassuring his brother, who surely cannot have dreamed that, at 18 years old he would be commanding a Light Capitol ship with a crew of thirty into battle, they were both proving extremely able battle commanders: they would see each other again.
A loud resonant boom shook Castor from his reverie: that'll be the first visitor then.
'Master please-That will be Trierarch Sampson-right on time as usual! Master!'
The old man, who had been sat cross legged in the middle of the Chamber opened one eye,
'Ah our Admiral Commanding the Western sector? He's an aggressive one that my Mathitis-mayhap just the man to replace the stodgy Milites eh?' This last accompanied by a pronounced wink that only served to irritate the young man even more.
'Please Master get up-it is not becoming that they see you like this!' Castor flung back as he made for the door-even though there was a real deference for the Archigos post it did not do to keep senior officers waiting. Seeing the good Doctor rise and move stiffly to his high backed chair the younger man opened the great chamber door and let in a rather irritated Trierarch Sampson and his immediate staff officers.
'Admiral you are most welcome!' bellowed Zeus from across the Chamber 'I believe you have some reports for me regarding prosecution of the war in our south-western area?'
'That is correct Archigos Zeus-my Commander has also asked that I update you on the immediate situation in the other sectors as well.'
A 3D holo image of their area of the galaxy, that was expandable to cover the whole of the universe as they knew it, sprang up between them with the Commander moving around in and amongst it making deft use of his laser pointer detailing how the Destroyer Battlegroups were now reconfiguring to groups of four, now that a logistics enhancement allowed the co-supply and systems linking of four rather than three ships.
'This should make a big difference since the Torian Heavy fighter formations are now typically eight and seven ships...'
Eight and seven! They had been like swarms of angry birds, Pollux had reported to his twin after his first big engagement in the summer off the Lentzlandians’ home planet, where a series of battles had been fought all year. The young commander had arrived to protect their worlds neighbouring Lentzlandians but only after some heroic last minute blocking and delaying actions by the much lighter Medusa Fighter Squadrons, San and Beta which had thrown themselves, in sacrifice, at two consecutive flights of seven Torian Fighter wings and won despite the loss of all but one of their own. The blocking had worked as it gave Pollux's Crius BG the time to arrive in theatre and take the fight to the massing Torian Fighter wings. After the engagement he had been rather flat, though, because, despite the brilliant command of his three ships and despite the fact that he had taken on, in consecutive weeks, two such Torian formations of eight fighters, they had lost one of their own destroyers, the ESS Lapatus, with the loss of all hands. His brother had been genuinely deflated until reminded that other Battlegroup commanders were routinely losing one ship for every one engagement.
'Your men and women are awaiting your orders my brother' was all he had said and this admonishment had seemed to do the trick dragging the young ship's captain back from whatever gloom he had descended into: for one thing Castor realised, though not a military man, was that for every dead soldier or sailor that an officer lost in this interminable war there were many more yet living that would need firm action and guidance if they were to survive.
‘.... and so the newly constituted Crius Battlegroup has taken up overwatch some fifteen parsecs fore of our Western forward line and quite close to the Torian extreme North east system of Maia IV, which at this moment looks out on a limb but there is a scout screen moving forward to get eyes beyond that system-'
Castor interjected 'and is my brother in operational command in that sector Trierarch Sampson?'
The Admiral swung about as if affronted at this unseemly interruption, gathered himself and responded in the affirmative, 'Sir your brother has been put in operational command since he is the best we have down there. There are now three Battlegroups operating in that sector with 3 more inbound-once they have all reconfigured there will be a fleet of four Battlegroups to probe southwest from Maia IV'
'This is good news indeed Admiral' Zeus breathed 'and you say the Torian strength in our south and eastern systems has been broken by the combined attacks of us and the Drengi?'
'That is correct Archigos....'
'Then surely we have turned a corner here-I begin to see an end to these hostilities at last, praise the Gods.'
'I think there is much to be done but yes Archigos, I can envisage moving from offensive to more defensive operations within months and then seeing what we want to do about the rump Torian homeworlds many parsecs to our south west.'
At this Dr Zeus bridled: 'Admiral, after two constant years of war and with many countless lives lost you surely cannot be advocating that we prosecute the war into the Torian homeworlds?'
The Admiral was nothing if not deterred, 'Sir what I am saying is that our Intel warns us that the Drengi will take what we don’t and if we allow them to conquer the Torian then we will have a whole new menace and one that is far more implacable and hell bent on domination than these water-dwelling hippos!'
'Admiral I would mind you to watch your tongue when you address the Archigos!' Castor snapped stepping forth from the shadows 'I think you forget yourself Sir!'
It was the steely tone in the much younger man that stopped the Admiral mid-flow. He was aggressive and ambitious but he was not going to break the back of his career on account of this young upstart.
Dr Zeus had also composed himself, 'you are dismissed Admiral and let us hear no more talk of conquering.'
There was only a brief pause once the military men had gone before another boom sounded. Aware that his normally placid Master was quite angry, Castor hesitated.
'Answer it my son-I believe that it is the Minister of Finance and that it is not good news.'
Castor was confused 'surely it's our Trade Minister with news of the seven Freighters we have sent to the Drengi and the Iconian Homeworlds master-that's who I had scheduled next?'
'This is not a scheduled call young one-open the door'
And sure enough, on opening the door, there stood the Minister of Finance, one Sandro Alexandros, a denizen of Artemison, a planet in the neighbouring Wodan system some seven parsecs to their north east. He liked him not this weasel-faced accountant but had so far suppressed any such views from Dr Zeus who seemed to have a strange affection for the man.
Sandro came forward timidly,
'Well-met Sandro?' Zeus called good-naturedly but he knew what was coming and braced himself for it.
'Sir it is with great regret that I report that the treasury coffers are empty-the whole scale mobilisation of this war and the need to continue to build warships and war capacity has now outstripped our ability to raise revenue. We are....' He paused,
'Come on spit it out man!' Another sharp intervention from Castor.
Startled the Financier jumped. How could such a timid man be controlling the finances of an entire civilisation Castor was thinking-no wonder their cash flow was a mess!
'Sir I must report that we are now four hundred and forty four billion credits in the red with a weekly net loss of a further one hundred and sixty seven billion creds. All production has had to be halted whilst we put into effect emergency measures to bring our spending under control...'
At this, however, it was not the Great Leader who lost their temper but his young apprentice 'Sirrah! You are the Comptroller of Finances in this Government-this debacle has happened on your watch! Whilst our brave service personnel are fighting and dying in their droves, my brother included, you now propose to choke off the lifeblood of their money-YOU WRETCH!!!!! This last was shouted as he crossed the room in a blind rage.
'CASTOR OHIRIDES!' Came the shout from Dr Zeus that halted the young man in his tracks. 'You will leave us! Report to the Broadcast Editor of GNN and let him know that the Broadcast will be delayed. Mr Alexandros and I have matters to discuss in order to work out a way through this'
Abashed and ashamed at this highly uncharacteristic loss of control Castor crept from the chamber, his eyes filled with tears at his display of ire and his heart full of fear of what this new economic threat might presage...
Trierarch Samspon and his staff Arrive at the Archigos's Great Chambers (Security Cam #344433)